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LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

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

Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:28 pm

Christian group in Kurdistan Region notifies UN, EU of Hashd 'threats'

Soraya, a cultural and media organization in Iraq, has called on the international community to take quick action to protect indigenous Christian and Yazidi populations in Fishkhabur.

“Due to the attacks by the Hashd al-Shaabi militia, who are supported by Iran, Christian villages have faced very serious threats," read a portion of the organization's statement.

The letter was sent to UN bodies in Iraq, the Security Council, and European Union representatives in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

The group warns that nearby fighting between Iraq's paramilitary forces – namely the mostly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi – and Kurdish Peshmerga may spill into Christian and Yezidi villages in the proximity. It lists villages numbering some 17,000 families.

The statement calls for the international community to take "quick action" to protect the indigenous minority groups.

“On occasion of the International Religious Freedom Day, we call on the international community to protect Iraq and Middle East’s indigenous religions from destruction, murder and terror,” it adds.

Local Christians in the town have appealed to Pope Francis for help.

October 27 marks International Religious Freedom Day.

Fishkhabur is home to a crossing where the Turkey, Iraq-Kurdistan Region, Syria borders meet.

Iraqi federal forces and Iranian-backed paramilitaries launched an attack on Kurdish forces near Fishkhabur on Thursday morning. The Peshmerga reported that they repelled the attack. Fishkhabur is located within the borders of the Kurdistan Region and is not in disputed territory.

The moves were part of Baghdad's measures to impose federal control over Kurdistani or disputed parts of the country which are claimed by both capitals. Additionally, the federal government wants control of borders and airports.

Christians have faced persecution and displacement in Iraq, while Yezidis were killed and enslaved by the thousands in what the UN has declared genocide.

Iraq’s Christian population has fallen from 1.5 million before 2003 to just hundreds of thousands today.

In the war against ISIS, around 1.8 million displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees, including religious minorities, fled into the Kurdistan Region which had a population of just over 5 million.

"We honor the work that the Kurds have done in order to make that happen," said US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Thursday.

On Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence announced an initiative to allow State Department funding via USAID to go straight to religious NGOs operating in Iraq and Syria, bypassing UN coffers.

Since 2003, most NGO workers in northern Iraq have had offices in the Kurdistan Region.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/281020178
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:43 pm

Over 168,000 People Displaced from Kirkuk, Other Areas: KRG

The attacks by Iraqi forces, particularly the Popular Mobilization Units(PMU) on Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, Khanaqeen, Zumar, Rabi’a and other areas of Kurdistan on 16 October 2017, led to a humanitarian crisis, where tens of thousands of inhabitants of those areas fled for their lives and sought refuge in Erbil, Suleimaniya and Dohuk Governorates.

In a statement, Hoshang Muhammad, Director General of the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) at the KRG’s Ministry of Interior, said that 168,372 civilians have so far been displaced.

Of this number, 84,000 people fled to Erbil, 78,372 to Suleimaniya and 6000 people from Zumar and Rabi’a fled to Dohuk.

Mr. Muhammad said that most of these displaced people have been hosted or helped by their relatives in the Kurdistan Region cities and towns. Others took refuge in the IDP camps, public spaces and unfinished buildings, and suffer from dire circumstances.

These newly arrived IDPs urgently need food, blankets, clothes, fuel, medicine, medical care and places to live.

The JCC, in cooperation and coordination with its local and international partners, continues to help these IDPs as much as possible.

Mr. Muhammad said that due to the continued Iraqi military and PMU attacks around Kurdistan, it’s expected that more people, possibly tens of thousands, will be forced to leave their areas and seek refuge in the KRG controlled areas.

http://www.basnews.com/index.php/en/new ... tan/388865
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:24 am

Expert: Heed Kurdish Warnings Of Genocide By Iran-Backed Militias

TEL AVIV – Iraqi Kurdistan’s warnings that it could face another genocide at the hands of the growing alliance between Iraq and Iranian forces in the region if the West continues to ignore its predicament are legitimate, an expert on Islamic terror said on Wednesday.

“There is a great fear among the Kurds that they could face another genocide at the hands of the Iraqi government and the Shia militia forces backed by Iran,” Julie Lenarz, the director of London-based think tank Human Security Centre, said on a call organized by advocacy group The Israel Project.

Lenarz blasted President Donald Trump for remaining neutral on Kurdistan’s plight in the face of ongoing Iran-backed attacks which have so far cost the Kurdish Regional Government nearly half its territory.

“Iran is laughing while a longterm U.S. ally [Kurdistan] is humiliated and defeated,” she said.

Lenarz’s remarks came hours after the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) released a statement that “after defeating the Islamic State, Kurds are now being drawn into a new wave of sectarian violence by certain radical Shia armed groups that want to impose themselves.”

“If the United Nations, Iraq and the U.S. do not gain control of the situation, the flames of sectarian conflict might lead to the risk of a Kurdish genocide in the Kurdistani disputed areas,” the PUK said, adding that thousands of civilians were in need of humanitarian assistance following the fall of Kirkuk to Iraqi and Shia forces last week. Iranian General Qassam Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was in Iraqi Kurdistan at the time and was reported to have pushed the Kurds to withdraw from Kirkuk under threat.

“It’s hard to overstate what the Iranians have pulled off over the last two weeks,” Lenarz said. “By denying the clear evidence of Shia militia activities on the ground, and by abandoning the Kurds, Washington effectively legitimized Soleimani’s scheme.”

In a separate interview last week, Lenarz warned that without Kurdistan, Iran’s influence would continue to spread unchecked in the region.

“This is an Iranian plot to complete its regional hegemony. Kurdistan remains a bulwark against Iran and religious extremism. America must choose between Iran and Kurdistan,” she told Israel National News.

“Iran’s most powerful commanders are in South Kirkuk. They are clearly running operations on the ground. On a micro level this is Kurds vs. Baghdad. On a macro level, it’s Iran versus the West and its allies,” she added.

“American equipment is being used by Iranian proxies, including Abrams tanks and Humvees. There are causalities. Iran’s hand in the Kirkuk crisis is undeniable. Powerful commanders Qassem, Kais, Hadi and Abu Mahdi are all in South Kirkuk leading the operation. This is an Iranian plot to complete regional hegemony. Kurdistan remains the bulwark against Iran and religious extremism,” Lenarz said.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Tehran and warned him, “Don’t trust America, [because] it will harm you in the future,” according to state TV.

http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017 ... pert-says/
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:27 pm

Macron presses for Iraq-Erbil dialogue, ensure Kurdish rights

The office of Emmanuel Macron says that the French president has encouraged the Iraqi prime minister that all efforts must be made to solve disputes between Erbil and Baghdad through dialogue while ensuring rights of the Kurds.

“The President of the Republic asked that everything be done to avoid fighting between Iraqis and that, as part of the unity and constitution of Iraq, a dialogue to be held between Erbil and Baghdad taking into account the rights of the Kurds and minorities,” read a statement from the Elysee palace.

“In this regard, he welcomed the establishment of a committee between Kurdish and federal Iraqi forces to discuss modalities for joint redeployment in the disputed areas.”

The statement, published on the website of Elysee, reds: “The President of the Republic talked on the phone on October 28 with the Iraqi Prime Minister, with whom he had already exchanged several times since Haider al-Abadi's visit to Paris on October 5.”

According to the statement, Iraqi PM Abadi had “recalled the importance of preserving national unity and finding a concerted solution with the Kurds.”

“The President of the Republic and the Iraqi Prime Minister recalled the importance of the continued fight on Iraqi soil to drive Daesh out of all Iraqi territories with the help of a coalition where France plays its entire role.”

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/291020174

Does not mention Macron speaking with Barzani or any other Kurdish representative X(
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Oct 29, 2017 3:21 pm

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga start new round of talks

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters on Sunday started a second round of talks to resolve a conflict over control of the Kurdistan region’s border crossings, Iraqi state TV said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday ordered a 24-hour suspension of military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. The two sides held a first round of talks on Friday and Saturday .

Abadi said the talks are meant to prepare for the peaceful deployment of Iraqi troops at the border crossings with Turkey, Iran and Syria in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Clashes broke out between the two sides after Iraqi forces captured the oil-rich city of Kirkuk from the Peshmerga, in a surprise offensive ordered by Abadi after the Kurds held an independence referendum in northern Iraq on Sept. 25.

Kirkuk is part of so-called disputed areas, claimed by both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

“The second round of talks about deploying federal troops in the disputed areas has started,” State TV said, giving no further details.

Abadi wants to take control of the disputed areas and the border crossings, including one in the Fish-Khabur area through which an oil export pipeline crosses into Turkey, carrying Iraqi and Kurdish crude oil.

The KRG on Wednesday proposed an immediate ceasefire, a suspension of the referendum result and “starting an open dialogue with the federal government based on the Iraqi constitution” - a call rejected by Baghdad.

U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces, Iranian-backed paramilitaries and Kurdish fighters fought alongside each other to defeat Islamic State, also called ISIS, but the alliance has faltered with the militants largely defeated in the country.

The multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, which lies outside the KRG’s official boundaries, fell to Iraqi forces without much resistance on Oct. 16. But the Peshmerga began to fight back as they withdrew closer to the core of the Kurdish region.

The fall of Kirkuk, considered by many Kurds the heart of their fatherland, was a major symbolic and financial blow to the Kurdish drive for independence championed by KRG President Masoud Barzani, since it halved the region’s oil export revenue.

The most violent clashes happened in the northwestern corner as the Peshmerga fought back offensives toward Fish-Khabur and south of their capital, Erbil, leaving dozens of casualties on both sides.

Speaking in Geneva on Thursday, U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was “disappointed that the parties have been unable to reach an entirely peaceful resolution” and that he had encouraged Abadi to accept the KRG “overtures for talks on the basis of the Iraqi constitution”.

Abadi demanded on Thursday that the Kurds declare their referendum void, rejecting the KRG offer to suspend its independence push to resolve a crisis through talks. “We won’t accept anything but its cancellation and the respect of the constitution,” he said in a statement during a visit to Tehran.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mide ... SKBN1CY0GF
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Oct 29, 2017 9:04 pm

You’d think the US would stand with Kurds
here’s why America won’t

By Seth Frantzman

After the shock of October 16th when the Iraqi army rolled into Kirkuk and Kurdish forces withdrew in disarray, many Kurdish voices on social media have sought answers for the “betrayal.” They wonder how it is possible after years fighting ISIS shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans, and many western powers, that their friends would evaporate so quickly and leave them at the mercy of a burgeoning nationalist power in Baghdad and a gloating Tehran eager to permanently weaken and carve up the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Many wonder why the US didn’t send high level diplomats to sort out the crises and encourage peaceful resolution of conflict as part of a strategy of a strong post-ISIS Iraq. One would think US policy makers would be aghast seeing US-trained Iraqi troops and US humvees used against allies.

For US policy-makers this was never a question. Of course the US would stand with Baghdad, the sovereign “unifying” Iraqi government. Any statements to the contrary would seem to support Kurdistan secession and would send the wrong message to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose government the US has invested billions of dollars in. Any deviation from full-throated support for Baghdad could drive Abadi into the arms of Iran at the most inopportune time.

America is trying to sort out the post-ISIS Middle East and Iraq is key to that. Fourteen years after the 2003 invasion the US is beholden to Iraq more than at any time in history. The power relations between Baghdad and Washington have also altered. Where once the US led the way in the surge and the US controlled Iraq, helping midwife a constitution in 2005 and elections, Iraq is now weighing its choices. It is a country whose Prime Minister behaves independently and which hosts numerous pro-Iranian Shia militia leaders that have been invited to be part of the government. The US needs to convince it not to go with Tehran, but to stay close to Riyadh, and Washington has invested deeply in that relationship over the last year or more. From policy-makers eyes in Washington, Iraq is the hinge on which the Middle East will pivot.

Provoking Iran in Iraq is not the right way forward, that is why the US believes that supporting Baghdad against the Kurdistan region is the best way to fan the flames of Iraqi nationalism, which the US thinks will tone down and distract from “ethno-sectarian” division. That means that encouraging anti-Kurdish rhetoric is actually the “solution” to Iraq’s problems, because in the US view that can unite Arab Sunnis and Shia against a common enemy, and keep them from being distracted by Iran’s role.

As odd as this may seem, the US policy is to encourage Iraqi nationalism. No matter that that nationalism inevitably means anti-Kurdish sentiment. Around 160,000 Kurds have fled areas near Kirkuk and Zummar since the clashes began on October 16, but for the US that is a worthwhile sacrifice to save Iraq. After all, it is not the first mass exodus of people from the country. Largely the “saving” of Iraq since 2003 has meant the destruction of most of the country and elimination of groups that oppose the government the US helped midwife into power.

Iraqi nationalism: The US answer to Iraq

The US was close to the Nouri al-Malaki regime, even as it had concerns about Iranian influence after the surge. Let’s recall how the New York Times described Brett McGurk in 2012 when Obama nominated him as ambassador to Iraq, a nomination that he withdrew from when a small scandal erupted. “Mr. McGurk’s withdrawal was a blow to the White House as it sought to manage the next phase in Iraq’s postwar development. Since pulling out American troops in December after eight years of combat, Mr. Obama has been trying to preserve a fragile stability in Iraq amid sporadic violence and concerns about Iranian influence. The White House has been worried that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki might develop into another strongman.”

The US under Obama preferred Maliki. As Emma Sky notes at Foreign Affairs; “When Iraqiya, the nationalist, nonsectarian political party led by Ayad Allawi, narrowly defeated the Dawa Party, led by Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister, the Obama administration failed to uphold the right of the winning bloc to have the first go at forming a government. Instead, it signaled its desire to keep Maliki in power, despite the stipulations of the Iraqi constitution and the objections of Iraqi politicians.”

The rest is history. Maliki’s oppressive and Shia supremacist sectarian rule helped to grow extremism. When ISIS appeared Maliki’s army disintegrated leaving 2,300 US humvees and massive ordinance to be captured by the enemy. In an odd irony the ineffective disaster that Maliki bequeathed to Iraq became a new reason for the US to step in to find new leadership it could see as the next savior.

Abadi, despite being a member of Maliki’s party, has become that leader. The US hopes they can move him to form his own power base, beholden to America, even as he cleverly uses America for his own projects. Despite many voices who have warned about Iranian influence in Iraq and suggested that a breakup of the country might be better, the reality is that institutional Washington, or what some would like to call the “deep state,” cannot countenance such fanciful thinking.

Washington, since the end of colonialism in the 1960s, has picked up the neo-colonial banner stepping into the breach that European countries abandoned; not in the sense of conquering other states and colonizing them, but seeking to become a global hegemony that adjudicates the world’s affairs. So some ask rightly why the US supported the breakup of Yugoslavia and an independent Kosovo, but not Kurdistan. Because one is in US interests and the other not. Henry Kissinger said “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” The concept of allies, Washington insiders and realists would say is naive, ridiculously romantic, and counter-productive to US interests.

US foreign policy is not based on US values

There is another critique of US policy in places like Iraq that asks: What about American values. Those Wilsonian values of “self-determination,” those Kennedy values of “support any friend.” Those values would dovetail more with Erbil than Baghdad (see a series of interesting tweets on this subject by Rukmini Callimaci). Baghdad bans alcohol. In Baghdad most foreign journalists and foreigners in general do not leave the Green Zone or guarded hotels for fear of kidnapping or terror. In the Kurdistan region they do.

But values are also seen as naive in Washington policy circles. Of course the US pays lip-service to “democracy” and “self-determination” historically. The State Department releases its annual “religious freedom” report. But US allies in the world tend to be countries who restrict religious freedom the most. Countries buying the most weapons from the US are not exactly a whose-who of democracies.

Three Gulf monarchies have topped the list in recent years; Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries with abysmal human rights records, including countries imprisoning the most journalists, are among the US closest allies. Anyone that assumes US foreign policy would reflect American values is not only mistaken, but US foreign policy can often be counted upon to reflect the diametric opposite of US values.

In short, the more a country abuses human rights and suppresses free speech and imprisons journalists, the less secular it is and the more it crushes religious freedom, the more likely it is to be a US ally. This may be a happenstance of history or a product of the Cold War. During the Cold War the US often allied with conservative monarchies or religious extremist regimes such as Pakistan, to fight against the Soviets. The reasoning was that sometimes you must ally with a bad actor to defeat an even worse actor on the world stage. Sixteen years after 9/11, two of the countries closely connected to the hijackers, including the country many of them came from, and the country that supported the regime that hosted them in Afghanistan, are two key US allies.

US officials tend to feel more secure in dictatorships because they tend to be treated better by dictators. They tend to have reliable and consistent foreign policies that don’t change much over time. They don’t ask their pesky parliaments for permission to base US troops, critical journalists don’t ask questions and there are no annoying referendums. Democracies tend to be more rude and diplomats must find their way and deal with protests and the open society. But in a dictatorship diplomats get to feel a bit like Lawrence of Arabia and it is addicting.

The number of US diplomats who come back from the Gulf and end up supporting the former regime they were based in or working as lobbyists for it is quite high. The numbers who come back from democracies and do that is quite low. Dictatorships and religiously conservative countries cast an exotic spell over westerners that boring democracies do not. Westerners posted to foreign dictatorships anyway do not have to suffer the rod of the dictatorship, they aren’t a persecuted minority, they don’t have to navigate bureaucracy, or be disappeared and tortured. So for them the experience of the Green Zone style life or its equivalent is great.

Often in the war on terror, the very countries that have dabbled in supporting extremist terrorism, tend to be US allies out of the logic that only they can control the Frankenstein of extremism that they helped to create. If you want to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, you’ve got to ally with the group that helped create it. You have to at least balance the two.

Interests, not long term

That doesn’t mean the US has not worked with plenty of groups seeking freedom over the years. From John Garang in Sudan, to Ahmed Shah Masoud, the US has worked with what would appear to be the better side of the equation of freedom against tyranny. However generally these relationships are short term and occur only when the local freedom fighters’ interests happen to dovetail with the US. The Kurdish relationship is emblematic of that. When the Kurds could be used by the US and Iran against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. However once an agreement could be found at Algiers in 1975, the US support evaporated.

When Saddam launched his genocidal gas attacks on Kurds in the 1980s. Declassified documents show the US knew about and even aided Saddam in his weapons program in the 1980s. This was in the context of fighting Iran, which had taken 52 American hostages in 1979 and held them for 444 days. An article on the US role in Iraq in the 1980s notes “The US provided less conventional military equipment than British or German companies but it did allow the export of biological agents, including anthrax; vital ingredients for chemical weapons; and cluster bombs sold by a CIA front organisation in Chile, the report says.”

This is the context within which one should understand what the US is doing in Iraq today. It would seem unprecedented that after three years fighting ISIS that the US would simply remain silent as Iraqi forces, led by Shia militias, have attacked Kurdish forces. One would think that the seventy-nation coalition would express surprise and seek to intervene to stop the clashes. One would think that the US would be surprised to see its humvees and the units it trained used against Kurdish peshmerga, rather than ISIS. One would think, since the US is officially opposed to the meddling role of Iran in the region, it would notice how so much Iraq policy is influenced by Qassem Soleimani of the the Quds Force of the IRGC.

Shock about this sudden turn of events is misplaced. For the cynical and pragmatic US diplomat and their advisors it is important not to get emotional about these things. The Kurdistan region was useful in 2014-2016, but once ISIS was largely defeated, the US can revert to its one-Iraq policy rooted in Baghdad.

The Kurdistan region is largely a distraction for Washington today. Its attempt to remind the US that it was once an ally and a stable and successful part of Iraq where US diplomats and officials went to support the war on ISIS, is like the nagging conscience that has to be turned off. Some US policymakers see the creation of the KRG as a historic mistake and wish that the US had not catered to it in 2005 as it eroded Iraqi “unity” and gave Kurds “false hopes” independence one day. The real goal of the US now is to remake Iraq without Sunni Arab or Kurdish politics playing much of a role. Minorities require balancing interests and fostering pluralism, it’s easier to work with Abadi and rely on one person, like the US worked with Maliki.

A recent policy proposal for the US, that has no doubt already been adapted in some form, suggests that “official U.S. statements should refer to populations in Iraq as Iraqis within particular territorial units and not as ethno-sectarian groups (Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd).” Translation: If you just pretend they don’t exist, then the “ethno-sectarian” groups will go away.

For Washington, reducing the presence of Shia militias, and the tendency of Iraqi army units the US trains to fly Shia flags is not a priority. Punishing Erbil is the priority. “Pleading with and coddling Kurdish officials is not a policy and does not advance U.S. interests. If Washington seeks a stable partner in Erbil as part of Iraq, it should stop enabling bad behavior and place conditions on its support to the Kurdistan Regional Government, including institutional reform and termination of military and financial support.” Of particular interest is the likely new US policy of “supporting nationalist trends toward a civil Iraqi state.”

To wean Iraq of its reliance on Iran, the US should show that its support is a “better alternative.” to Iranian militias. The Kurdistan referendum gave the US the excuse to allow the KRG to be economically weakened and partially crippled. US policymakers sometimes say this is because the KRG is riven with “corruption” and “family politics.” However the US doesn’t mind the same family politics in Qatar, or corruption in other countries and groups it works with.

Latent colonialism disorder: America’s Lawrence of Arabic complex

Now the US wants to stay in Iraq for the long term, and the Kurdistan region, in a bizarre and ironic way, is seen as the main obstacle to the US attempt to remake Iraq once more. As Glaser and Preble write at The National Interest: “If the country fractures in two, or more, that could further enhance Iranian influence in Baghdad and the rest of Shiite-dominated Iraq—something U.S. policy has consistently resisted.”

To prevent Iranian influence the US wants to sell Iraqi nationalism. This is a repetition of the US policy in Iraq after the surge. “The Obama administration insisted that Maliki was an Iraqi nationalist and a friend of the United States.” In some ways the US suffers from a kind of Latent Colonization Disorder. Since the US came to the colonial game late, it feels the need to make up for what it sees as the failures of former colonizing powers like the UK and France, by using its own methods.

Here we can see the tendency of the US to decide for Iraqs that they are “nationalists” and to tell them that their very authentic ethnic and religious feelings are not acceptable. Only the US can make them into “nationalists” the way the British once brought King Faisal to “unify” Iraq. If Kurds say “we are Kurdish” that is “sectarian.” If African-Americans say “we are African-American,” that identity politics is acceptable, in America. Because largely American policy consists of doing abroad the opposite of what one does at home. So if you celebrate diversity at home, you celebrate nationalism abroad.

In contrast to the knee-jerk dislike of the Kurdistan Regional Government among some policymakers and advisors, Sky notes in her Foreign Affairs piece that disputes between Iraq and the KRG should be “negotiated between Baghdad and Erbil, endorsed by neighboring countries, and recognized by the international community. Either way, the United States should support the revitalization of the UN’s efforts to determine, district by district, the border between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. This process should also consider granting Kirkuk special status in recognition of its diverse population, contested history, and oil wealth. No Iraqi prime minister can afford to lose Kirkuk. International mediation could help broker a compromise.”

That would be ideal, and one would think in US interests, to have a stable and peaceful Iraq. But Iran has moved faster than the US in encouraging Iraq to move on Kirkuk and Iran has used its leverage among parts of the PUK political party to create internal divisions in the KRG. It has also encouraged Iraq to press to control the entire Syrian border. It is no surprise that while Abadi was out of the country flying to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Iran between October 22-26, that Iranian-backed militias were continuing clashes with the Peshmerga. This wasn’t kept secret, Hadi al-Amiri and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were photographed on the frontlines near Zummar and Rabiah, planning the operations. Abadi outsources his Kurdistan policy to these commanders.

The Interior Ministry, which is controlled by Badr, used the ERD, which has been seconded to the Federal Police during the last year of operations against ISIS in Mosul and elsewhere, as part of the forces attacking the Kurds. But for the most part this was not an Iraqi army operation, but a Hashd al-Shaabi, PMU, operation. There is no real difference, since Abadi has stressed to US Secretary of State Tillerson that the PMU is the “hope” of Iraq and the region, and an institution of the government. He has repeatedly rejected calls for it to be dissolved and “go home.” Even though the role of the militias was conceived to fight ISIS when Maliki’s army fell apart, they are likely not going home and will continue to help guide Iraq’s policy.

Amiri showed up at a “Dialogue on terrorism” event in Baghdad in fatigues on October 28. This is the real face of Iraq, the one that US policymakers want to ignore. They hope that if they can just ignore the ill-treatment of the Sunni areas and the Kurdistan region, that they can finally get Iraq to be what they want it to be. Their policy is to simply not mention minorities in Iraq, and hope that by doing so any complaints from them will go away.

Critics might say this is cynical. But insiders say this is smart and realistic. “Don’t get emotional about the Kurdish Peshmerga. Yes, they played their role, but now is the time for Iraq. Supporting Kurds only weakens Baghdad and harms Abadi. He has told us that if we want him to work with the Saudis, we must permanently weaken the Kurdish region back to 2003 levels.” Western powers agree. Just days after Iraq seized Kirkuk, reports said that Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi met BP executives with the hopes of getting to work in the oil fields. British foreign policy on Iraq is likely closely tied to these kinds of interests.

The Kurdistan region has been sacrificed quickly and cleanly by western policymakers. This was a decision made in unison because for each country involved in the Kurdistan region, their interests in defeating ISIS had ended and they have no interest in fanciful ideas like “self-determination.” When Kurdish activists show photos of Iraqi vehicles with Shia sectarian flags or Ayatollah Khamenei on them, or Iranian IRGC in Iraq, or abuses of Kurds, western diplomats turn a blind-eye because they know that admitting what has happened in Iraq would force them to admit Iran has outplayed them (the US does the same in Lebanon to a different degree). They prefer to say that Iranian presence is “alleged” or “inflated” and to quietly whisper that it is “Israel” and pro-Israel commentators who are exaggerating the role of Iran (US policymakers are suspicious of the role of “neo-cons” in pushing for US wars with Iran).

Al-Muhandis and Amiri are just Iraqi nationalists, they say. They think enough to guns and butter can make the “nationalists” wean themselves of Iranian influence, confronting ideology and faith with goods and services, as was done in Vietnam. No need to mention that al-Muhandis is still considered a terrorist by the US, even as it works with institutions that work with him. The US Department of State clarified that again on October 26:

    QUESTION: One of the things is that Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Kata’ib Hizballah, whom Treasury designated a terrorist in 2009 for attacking U.S. and Iraqi troops, has just opened a recruiting station in Kirkuk. Do you have a comment on that?

    MS NAUERT: Yeah. So I saw that you’re – that report earlier. You’re correct; he is a terrorist. I cannot confirm that report, but I would have to say, if that report is correct, we hope his recruitment efforts fail miserably.

    QUESTION: Does it bother you that he is part of the PMF and technically part of the Iraqi Government and otherwise supported by Iran, and maybe the Iraqis should take action against him?

    MS NAUERT: He is a terrorist, and beyond that – I’m just not going to go beyond that, okay? It’s clear that he is a terrorist, okay?

The hope of Western policymakers is that nagging questions about what has become of the Kurdistan region, once flourishing with airports and a hub of economy and stability, hosting numerous foreigners and even a “capital of tourism” not so long ago, will eventually go away.

Baghdad has sought to ban Kurdish channels Rudaw and Kurdistan 24, which would also be viewed as a welcome development in the West. The less news, the better from the Kurdistan region. The same policy has been deployed by Western media and policymakers in seeking to not report on what happens to Kurds in neighboring states.

Ramifications for Syria

The plan that has played out in Iraq, using Kurdish forces to fight ISIS, and then walking away from them once Baghdad and the Peshmerga clashed, is being watched closely in Syria among the US “allies” in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The US has emphasized that the only goal in Syria is to defeat ISIS, nothing more.

The recent visit by Saudi Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan with Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, appears to show the US is involved in something a bit more than just war in Syria. Here again it comes back to a bit of the Lawrence of Arabia complex of some westerners who want to help Syria, but only on their terms. So the US is using Saudi money in Syria, as it has tried to do the same to bring Abadi into the Saudi camp.

Time and again US policy is exploited either by Saudi Arabia or Iran for their own ends. The brilliance of this is that US policymakers think they are just doing what is good for “our interests” without asking who else has interests. They don’t ask about Abadi’s visit to Tehran, in which Iranian officials told him that the US created ISIS, because Abadi is “our ally” and “our man in Baghdad.”

In Syria the US hopes it can craft some kind of new policy with the Saudis on the ground. What that policy is remains unclear, but in the long-run the chances that it will serve the interests of the SDF and YPG, who have fought alongside the US against ISIS, is slim. If the SDF and YPG are smart they will realize that what happened in northern Iraq will happen to them. Don’t get emotional, don’t ask how its possible the US can so quickly walk away from people who fought and died against a common enemy. That is US policy. The US has no friends. It has only interests.

It’s interests in northern Syria is not a secular or democratic place. Don’t talk to Americans about “but your Declaration of Independence says” and “Woodrow Wilson said” and “JFK said” and “FDR said.” Those values no longer exist in America, and if they exist they exist least in policy-making circles. Once potential groups and allies of the US understand that talking about values or saying “but we fought together” and talking about “democracy” and “secularism” and “human rights” is not the way to win American hearts and minds, the better.

America has values fatigue from decades of war, from contradictions and hypocrisies. It has a cynical outlook on the world. In general it views dictatorships, monarchies and states that suppress religious freedom as stable and reliable. Democracies are chaotic. The Arab spring was chaotic. The 2004 book arguing that the US sees the world as one fought between chaos and and “functioning” countries, puts nascent democracies in the chaos court. Ideal allies are the Gulf states. Democracy is a 20th century value.

The best that America can do today is fight terrorism, which it excels at through numerous military bases and masses of special forces and drones. Anyone who thinks partnering with the US on that level translates into some kind of social partnership after or long-term values-based policy, is mistaken. The KRG partnered with America over killing ISIS. ISIS was defeated and with it went the need for the US to maintain support for the KRG.

https://sethfrantzman.com/2017/10/29/yo ... -wont/amp/
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:20 am

Breaking the silence on Kurdish rights
By GARY KENT
-
The deception and spin are so large they are almost invisible to the casual onlooker with an understandably shallow grip on Iraq and Kurdistan. Many probably accept an apparently common sense explanation that the Kurds went too far and the federal government should control places such as Kirkuk. They may have a soft spot for the Kurds but have accepted Iraqi actions. This has been informed by a common journalistic narrative that the KRG made a land grab for Kirkuk and its oil wealth without which independence is difficult.

Yet there is little truth in this. Whether Baghdad or Erbil controls Kirkuk, it and other disputed territories remain just that. There was joint control of Kirkuk until June 2014 and then the KRG was asked to rescue the city when its Iraq defenders fled. Baghdad need not have attacked Kirkuk but chose to despite the constitution making it clear that force should not be used to settle internal differences. The KRG High Representative in London, Karwan Jamal Tahir, rightly says Iraqi actions are unnecessary, unjust, and illegal.

Iraq has so far got away with this because American and other diplomats were furious about the Kurdish rejection of their belated offer, apparently agreed with Iraq, to defer the referendum in return for open dialogue and a possible later referendum. The offer could have worked if delivered earlier. If it was agreed with Abadi, it makes his later actions all the more outrageous. If it wasn't then it undermines its credibility as a means to delay the referendum.

Deligtimisation by Western powers of the referendum was expected even if its harshness wasn't, at least by me, and has inadvertently provided cover for Iraq's extreme reaction. Furthermore, Kurdistan's complexities have been almost completely obscured by the crisis in Catalonia. Many more Brits have been to Barcelona than Erbil or Halabja and it is understandable that the Spanish imbroglio commands more attention but limited media bandwidth has also enabled Iraq to try to do its worst. Breaking the silence with salient facts is the priority.

More profoundly, President Trump's America is pulling up the drawbridge and despite its rhetorical opposition to Iranian expansionism, opposes what it sees as nation-building and has plumped for Abadi as the candidate best able to save Iraq from Iran, with the Kurds paying the price for this geopolitical calculation.

Abadi has apparently decided to shore up his domestic position by being tough on the Kurds as there are no votes in being kind to the Kurds. Some say that Kurdish withdrawal from high-profile participation in Baghdad deprived them of the political intelligence and heft to see and avert this. Some say the Kurds should back Abadi to prevent the return of Maliki and use their votes to be kingmakers again. And that may be a necessary task.

But much depends on Iraq's real strategic intentions in the current conflict. Are they trying to establish facts on the ground to then reach an accommodation with the Kurds on the best possible terms for Iraq. Or do they seek to take direct control of parts or all of the KRG. I publicly asked a senior Iraqi official this week to give an assurance that Iraq would respect the KRG's 2003 border but none was given. In fact, they have sought to do this by wresting control of the border crossing with Turkey.

Iraq has managed to make significant advances but in ways that show fundamental weaknesses. Their reliance on Iranian controlled Shia militia and Iranian military assistance are hostages to fortune. At another meeting this week, there was a touch of the Comical Ali by another senior Iraqi official in defending Baghdad's position. He denied that Shia militia were present because they have been incorporated into the Iraqi defence structure and are therefore under the control of the Prime Minister. True in theory but less so in practice. It reminded me of the witless representative of the political wing of what used to be the mainstream Irish republican organisation who once told me that 'The Official IRA does not exist and we are not a part of it.'

The Iraqi official also acknowledged that Qassem Soleimani was an adviser but argued that the Iraqi Army also had American and British advisers as if they are morally equivalent to the head of a terrorist organisation which is fundamentally hostile to the West.

Yet such arguments have little traction given the toxic mixture of primitive anti-imperialism and isolationism, which underpins widespread public indifference to external events and, sadly, even the Kurds who have done so much to help the West and deserve much better.

Yet, even if Iraq is seeking to push the Kurds into an impoverished and blockaded box, I wonder if the geographical and political weight of the Kurds can be contained so easily. One result of Baghdad's brutality could yet be increased Sunni resistance on the Kurdish doorstep to centralisation by Baghdad. The Kurds could be seen as desirable partners for moderate Sunnis and that could be of interest to the West fearful of a new jihadist threat to their interests and people.

The Kurds may have been mistaken in their assumptions that a mandate for moderate action to seek a divorce settlement was possible but they still form a fifth of the Iraqi population and could be more influential. Either way, they didn't deserve the response they received for their non-crime of holding a referendum, which is not barred by the constitution.

Whether the referendum result is frozen or cancelled in some way, the reality will always be that a good majority voted to leave a free union, as the constitution defines Iraq. It takes two to tango after all. A senior Iraqi official told me in a meeting that the turnout and therefore the Yes vote was lower in some parts of Kurdistan. Given that mathematics emerged from the Middle East, I wish I had had the wit or the chance to point out that averages necessarily consist of lower and higher figures. He was seeking to minimise the result, as you would expect, but it still happened.

International solidarity is more difficult. Reliable information is crucial if friends across the world can exercise maximum leverage on their governments to encourage a fair deal between Erbil and Baghdad rather than a vindictive and punitive peace. There is still much sympathy in the West for the Kurds to be mobilised.

By coincidence, there was a prominent photography exhibition last week in the Commons called 'Return to Kurdistan.' It was organised by the Gulan cultural group, in co-operation with the APPG, and consisted of images of Kurdistan from the past and the present and was seen by many parliamentarians. Returning to Kurdistan is just now difficult given the air blockade but other communication is possible and the Kurds and friends need to work together to maximise their clout.

But internal solidarity is also more vital than before. At a demonstration outside Downing Street a senior activist told me that disunity is the perennial problem for the Kurds. The bleak box that is maybe being prepared for the Kurds is now the opportunity and necessity for overcoming those differences, as seems to be the case for Iranian Kurds, for the next push to equality, freedom and statehood one day. Without making any parallels with them, the IRA slogan once had it, 'our day will come.' Inshallah.

Gary Kent is the Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). He writes this column for Rudaw in a personal capacity. The address for the all-party group is appgkurdistan@gmail.com.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/opinion/30102017

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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Oct 30, 2017 11:31 am

Kirkuk police officers to return to work per Erbil-Baghdad accord

More than 200 officers and policemen will resume work in Kirkuk on Monday according to an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad.

“The interior ministries of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region agreed for police and officers who were displaced from Kirkuk province to return to work,” said Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir, Kirkuk Suburban Police Chief.

The policemen numbering 263 will resume work today, Qadir added.

Qadir pointed out any policemen took weapons or vehicles with them should bring it back, as part of the agreement.

After the Iraqi army and Iran backed Shiite militias took over Kirkuk on October 16, more than a hundred thousand Kurdish residents fled the city, including police and security forces.

Kurdish and Iraqi military and government officials have held talks on preventing any further escalation of tensions between the two sides and finding a way forward in all disputed territories, including Kirkuk city.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/301020171
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:28 am

Places Lost from Kurds in Southern Kurdistan

The process centered around Kirkuk launched by the Iraqi army and the Hashd al-Shaabi on October 16 after the referendum held on September 25 continues at a great price to Kurds.

Please click to enlarge:
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Many provinces, districts, villages and oil-rich areas under control of the Southern Kurdistan Regional Government before the September 25 Referendum has been handed over to the Iraqi Central Government and the Hashd al-Shaabi.

The Iraqi army is taking back the areas had previously stolen from the Kurds and that they retreated, without resistance, from in 2014 during ISIS attacks.

Some areas were invaded as a result of the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi attacks, while many others are just handed over in accordance with the deal the Hewler (Erbil) administration made.

The following is a list of places the Southern Kurdistan Regional Government has handed over to the Iraqi Central Government and the Hashd al-Shaabi with the process that began on October 16:

    Tuz Khurmatu

    Khanaqin

    Kirkuk

    Daquq

    Taza

    Bashir

    Makhmur

    Rabia

    Shengal (The parts under KDP control)

    Zumar

    Dibis

    Pirdê and many villages

OIL-RICH AREAS

    Bay Hesen

    Zumar

    Havana

    Baba Gurgur

    Gaz Shimal

    And 40 small and large areas with oil wells and refineries.

BORDER GATES

    Perwîzxan between Kelar and Qasr-i Shirin

    Xusrewî between Kelar and Khanaqin

    Başmax between Merîwan and Pencwînî

    The border gate between Piranshahr and Haji Umran

    Sêmalka border gate and the Khabur border gate

    Reports say meetings continue for the handover of airports in Hewler and Sulaymaniyah

The people of Southern Kurdistan are protesting the Hewler (Erbil) administration handing over their lands to Baghdad and Hashd al-Shaabi. Developments are seen as a great political rupture for the Kurds.
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:44 am

New governor can’t be elected in Kirkuk

The City Council is unable to convene to elect a new governor in the place of the Kirkuk Governor Najmattin Karim who was removed from office.

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PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) Politburo member Rıfat Abdullah stated that they are waiting for the Kirkuk City Council members to elect the Kirkuk governor, while KDP posed two conditions for the election of a new governor.

Kirkuk Governor Najmattin Karim was removed from office by the Iraqi central government shortly before the referendum.

The Kirkuk City Council made up of PUK, KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and the Islamic Union (Yekgirtu Islami).

PUK Politburo member Rıfat Abdullah spoke on the matter and said: “We are waiting for the return of the Kirkuk City Council members in order to elect a new governor for Kirkuk.”

Abdullah stated that the three parties in the city council have to come together to elect a new governor and added: “Baghdad has nothing to do with the election of the new governor. We as a party are waiting for the Kirkuk City Council to reconvene.

Whenever the Kirkuk City Council convenes, then we can make the decision for the new governor. We have asked KDP and Yekgirtu for help in having the council members return, and they didn’t say their council members would not be returning.”

Kirkuk Fraternity List Chairperson Muhammed Kemal spoke in the name of the KDP and said the meeting should be held outside of Kirkuk and all Politburo members of the PUK should agree to this.

Yekgirtu Islami announced that they are ready for a meeting.
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:03 pm

Iraq's Shiite Militias Are Just Getting Started
By Anchal Vohra

“We fight tonight,” Zakey Kamaal, a Turkmen Shiite with salt-and-pepper hair, told me on Oct. 15. He was dressed all in black to commemorate the killing of Imam Hussein, the 7th-century religious leader whom Shiites consider the rightful leader of the Muslim community, and spoke calmly and with authority.

“Peshmerga will walk out without much confrontation,” he said.

Kamaal is a commander in the Iran-sponsored Badr Organization, an Iraqi Shiite militia that recently participated in driving the Kurdish Peshmerga from the disputed city of Kirkuk. On the day that I spoke to him, he and six other middle-aged soldiers were war-gaming under a life-size photograph of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric. The men were discussing the need to convince their fighters to exercise restraint, so as to allow the Peshmerga to abandon their positions without resistance.

Kamaal was true to his word. On Monday, Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Organization, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a U.S.-designated terrorist who heads the Iran-aligned Kataib Hezbollah, looked on as the Kurdish flag was lowered and the Iraqi flag was raised at Kirkuk’s provincial council building.

Kirkuk has long been disputed between Iraq’s central government and the Kurds, but it became a flashpoint after the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Sept. 25 referendum on independence, which included the territory. The vote was widely seen as an attempt by KRG President Masoud Barzani to strengthen his political position in Iraqi Kurdistan, but electoral considerations in the rest of the country also shaped the fallout from the referendum. Iraq’s politicians head to the polls next year in national elections — to let the referendum pass uncontested would be tantamount to political suicide for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella organization under which Kamaal’s group and other militias fall, have emerged as a powerful political actor in the past several years. Following Ayatollah Sistani’s 2014 fatwa calling on Iraqis to take up arms against the Islamic State, and with weapons and military training provided by Iran, they fought the terrorist group with fanatical zeal — and the victory has empowered them like never before. Now, they are pushing officials in Baghdad to take an uncompromising stance on a range of issues, from ending the Kurds’ aspiration for independence to curtailing the U.S.-Iraqi partnership. Abadi is trying to walk a tightrope — balancing these sentiments with his own desire to bolster the central government’s ties to Washington and Iraq’s diverse array of sects and ethnicities.

Kamaal professes that the PMF takes orders from Abadi — but the truth is more complicated.

In reality, they represent a powerful constituency that can pressure the prime minister to adapt to their agenda, and can also act on their own if the government does not support them. The decision of the Badr Organization and other militias to fight the Peshmerga, for instance, preceded Abadi’s instructions to send in the Counter Terrorism Service to secure the federal infrastructure in Kirkuk.

The divisions between Abadi and the PMF groups were visible even before the assault on Kirkuk. On Oct. 11, PMF fighters on the ground in Kirkuk told me the operation to re-establish control over the territory “is a matter of a day or two.”

But even as the PMF was mobilizing its forces, a source in the Iraqi Defense Ministry was boasting about Abadi’s strategy to resolve the crisis — measures that included restrictions on KRG airspace and marshaling diplomatic help from Iran and Turkey, but that did not contemplate the military action.

“Use of force? No chance,” the official said, on condition of anonymity. “Abadi is drawing up a list of things that can be done to teach Barzani.”

In reality, Abadi was cornered. Turkey didn’t cut off the pipeline used by the KRG to supply oil, and the Shiite militia groups pressured Abadi to deliver a quick political resolution or let them handle it.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/18/ira ... ign=buffer
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:00 pm

How the Kurds lost Iraq: 'They had tanks and planes and we had no chance'

Iraq Reborn: Kurdistan has given up all the territories it won since US invasion in 2003 without a fight. In the second part of his special series, Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on the gruesome murder of a TV journalist which shows what violence lies just below the surface

The defeat of the Kurds in Kirkuk is devastatingly complete. “We used to be in control here and now we are not,” says Aso Mamand, the Kurdish leader in the city, summing up the situation in a helpless and embittered tone as he describes the fall of Kirkuk and the nearby oilfields to the Iraqi government forces. He would like some new power-sharing arrangements and warns of dire consequences if this does not happen, but he does not sound very hopeful.

Kirkuk used to be described as “the powder keg” of Iraq because of furiously contested rival claims to it by Kurdish nationalists and the Baghdad government. It was potentially even more explosive because its Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities make it a deeply divided place. But, despite these rancorous disputes and differences, when the final crisis came on 16 October, the switch from Kurdish to federal government control was surprisingly swift and peaceful.

Mr Mamand says that there was no battle because the Kurds simply did not have the military strength to hold the city and he is dismissive of conspiracy theories about its betrayal. Asked if the advance of the Iraqi forces could have been resisted if the two main Kurdish parties – his own Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by president Masoud Barzani – had been united, he says: “Of course not. The Iraqi forces had tanks and planes and we had no chance. Maybe we would have lasted a day if we had fought, but the only result would have been bloodshed.”

Many Kurds fled at the time and not all have returned, but there is no sign of damage from the fighting and shops and markets are open. A thunderstorm briefly emptied the streets when we were there, but otherwise traffic was heavy and there are few soldiers or checkpoints. “Do you see anything out of the ordinary?” asks the acting governor, Rakan Saeed Ali al-Jubouri, the Arab former deputy governor, whose office looks little changed from when it was occupied by the Kurdish governor Najmaldin Karim who was forced to flee to Irbil. Mr Jubouri says that “the local police are the same and there are just two battalions of the counter terrorism forces in Kirkuk”. Iraqi battalions are small so this probably means only a few hundred soldiers.

Mr Mamand insists that things aren’t quite what they look like. He says that “the government needs to do something to calm down the Kurdish street”. He suggests the appointment of a Kurdish governor or some arrangement to share power. Asked if there had been any significant security incidents, he cited only some shots fired by a former KDP security police officer at an army checkpoint. But, around about the time he was speaking, there was in fact a savage murder in a town called Duquq just south of Kirkuk city, which might give substance to Mr Mamand’s fear that the potential for violence is just below the surface.

The victim was Arkan Sharifi, 50, a Kurdish cameraman working for Kurdistan TV, who was knifed to death by four or five men who broke into his house and locked his wife and children in a separate room. When they got out five hours later, they found him lying in a pool of blood, his body mutilated and with a knife stuck in his mouth, evidence that he been killed because of something he had said or reported. His family says that the killers spoke the Turkmen language, suggesting that what happened may be the outcome of the ongoing feud between the Kurds and the Shia Turkmen that is particularly fierce south of Kirkuk.

I drove through the area where the murder took place earlier in the day and there was no sign of violence there or anywhere else on the closely guarded road from Baghdad. But the murder is a reminder that at all times Iraq is a very violent country. I spoke to a Turkmen member of the Hashd al-Shaabi pro-government paramilitaries called Jawdat Assaf who explained that he came from a village called Tisin Khadim which had been destroyed by Saddam Hussein in 1980. “I survived because I was under 15, but they killed 353 people – everybody over that age including my father and two brothers,” he recalled. “They accused us of supporting the [Shia revolutionary] Dawa Party, though we had hardly heard of it.”

The murder of Arkan Sharifi is striking in its brutality, but no fewer than 465 Iraqi journalists have been killed in the last 14 years. Otherwise the takeover of Kirkuk was unexpectedly pacific. Though the KDP accuses the PUK, always the dominant Kurdish party in the city, of a treacherous Iranian-orchestrated deal with Baghdad, both parties simultaneously withdrew their Peshmerga without fighting. If the Iraqi forces had to fight their way into Kirkuk city they would have inevitably won, but it could have detonated a wider ethnic and sectarian conflict in the disputed territories.

This long-predicted confrontation never took place, but the loss of Kirkuk is more than a crippling blow to Kurdish hopes of independence. With a divided leadership, no allies abroad and without a military option, the Kurds are losing the semi-independent status they had built up since Saddam Hussein was defeated in the Gulf War in 1991 and Iraqi government forces withdrew from the three Kurdish provinces.

This process is now going sharply into reverse. Iraqi government troops on Tuesday set up a checkpoint at the most important border crossing at Ibrahim Khalil between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. Vehicles crossing the border must now be checked three times – by Turks, Iraqi forces and the Kurds. “Habur border gate has been handed over to the central government as of this morning,” said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. With Turkey and Iran cooperating with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurdish authorities are in no position to resist the central government’s takeover of their main powers. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made clear in an interview with The Independent that he expects the Iraqi state to control the main Peshmerga forces, oil production and exports as well as international flights and the issuing of visas.

Yet the quiet takeover of Kirkuk could be a little deceptive. Weak though the Kurds may now be, political circumstances may not always be so wholly against them or in favour of the Iraqi state. The Kurds looked utterly defeated in 1975 when Saddam Hussein signed the Algiers Agreement with the Shah who abandoned his previous alliance with the Kurds. But the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 forced the withdrawal of much of the Iraqi army from Iraqi Kurdistan, which was then taken over by Kurdish nationalist forces. Defeated again through savage repression, Saddam’s overthrow by the US-led coalition in 1991 enabled the Kurds to start building a statelet, which became a powerful player when the US invaded in 2003.

If the central government in Baghdad exploits its present superiority over the Kurds too greedily, then it could provoke a powerful communal counter-reaction by the Kurdish population. This approach is likely to be opposed by Mr Abadi, but approved by his predecessor as Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in the run-up to the parliamentary elections next May. In Iraqi politics, almost everybody ends up by overplaying their hand.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 30081.html
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:47 pm

US congressmen question US policy in Iraq that ignores Kurds

Image

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Several US congressmen gathered in front of the Capitol to slam the presence of Iran-backed militias within the Iraqi Interior Ministry and call for more US State Department and White House support for Kurds.

"At best the State Department has been derelict in its duties ... I don't care what State says. Here's the picture," said US Congressman Duncan Hunter, while holding up a photo of what he said was Shiite militias on a US tank.

Many of the six-or-so congress members who took turns talking emphasized that the State Department policy does not match how they see the facts on the ground.

"The State Department has screwed up. We are backing the wrong people. State is going to lose us Iraq again," added Duncan.

Rep. Trent Franks asked the administration of President Donald Trump to re-evalute Iran's "malicious influence" in Iraq.

Others, including Rep. Lee Zeldin, noted that there are commanders under Iraq's Interior Ministry that are members of Hezbollah.

A former assistant to Trump, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, expressed that "Shiite terrorism" is the next threat in the Middle East after "Sunni terrorism" is defeated.

This story will be updated by Rudaw please follow Link:

http://www.rudaw.net/english/world/01112017...
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri Nov 03, 2017 9:51 pm

PM Barzani and Tillerson stress 'political
dialogue' with Baghdad in phone call


Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both emphasized the need for political negotiations to begin between Erbil and Baghdad in a phone call on Friday, according to a statement from Barzani’s office.

“US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his concerns over the tensions between Erbil and Baghdad and reemphasized the support of the United States for the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq,” read the Kurdish statement released on Friday night.

He also hoped that the existing ceasefire and security dialogue between Iraqi and Kurdish military officials “will be turned into a political dialogue to solve the problems between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.”

There was no immediate statement from Tillerson’s office.

PM Barzani, despite expressing concerns over Baghdad’s continued military advances, stressed “the full readiness of the Kurdistan Region to begin political dialogue for the sake of a peaceful solution for the problems.”

The prime minister said he hoped the international community, and the United States in particular, will urge Iraq to enter talks and avoid resorting to military options.

He added that the Kurdistan Region does not want war as conflict will not solve anything. He said Erbil instead wants “to solve everything with the federal government of Iraq within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.”

PM Barzani and his deputy Qubad Talabani hosted US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman in Erbil on Thursday.

During their meeting, Ambassador Silliman expressed his “concerns” over deadly clashes in the disputed areas. He hoped that the two sides would make serious efforts to avoid tensions and begin talks. To achieve this, Silliman said the “continuation of ceasefire is necessary,” according to a statement from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The US is overseeing military talks between Iraqi and Kurdish forces regarding the deployment of federal troops to disputed areas and Kurdistan Region’s international borders. No agreement has yet been reached, but talks continued on Thursday in Mosul.

Prime Minister Barzani has assumed new powers after the duties of the president were distributed among the prime ministry, the parliament, and the judiciary following a vote by the parliament on the resignation of former Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani – a move welcomed by the US.

The US State Department on Monday expressed its support for the “new leadership” headed by PM Barzani.

Relations between Erbil and Baghdad have reached their lowest point after an Iraqi-led military operation drove Peshmerga forces out of oil-rich Kirkuk and many other disputed areas since October 16, resulting in the worst crisis between the two since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Kurdistan Region has offered to freeze the outcome of its vote on independence in return for open dialogue with Baghdad in light of the Iraqi constitution, a move welcomed by Washington, but rejected by Baghdad who wants the vote cancelled.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/031120173
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Re: LAST NEWS ABOUT KIRKUK

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:04 pm

Family relies on DNA test to identify Peshmerga run over by Iraqi tank

Hajar Khalil, a 32-year old Peshmerga, died fighting to the end against the Iraqi army and the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi advancing on Kirkuk on October 16.

He is among 26 Peshmerga confirmed killed during several hours of clashes in Kirkuk before the city fell to the Iraqi forces.

Hajar’s brother, Sivar, named after the Treaty of Sevres that promised Kurdish people an independent state after the First World War, described Hajar’s last moments.

“One of his friends was wounded. Hajar and his friend were PK machine gunners. He took his friend aside. He took his friend’s weapon as well. As I was told, he defended his position using the two weapons. He put a halt to the advancing forces. He kept on fighting so that others could leave and also remove the wounded. When the enemy was left with no other solution, they deployed a tank to take him out, an American tank whose speed is similar to a vehicle. He fought on until the tank ran over him.”

His family went to the place where he was last seen to search for his body. “Hajar, my Hajar,” his mother Leyla Najmaldin is heard crying in a video as she and her husband desperately searched for his dead body in the grass and a corn field.

“I searched in the grass. There was no dead body left. There were only two artillery machines, one PK machine gun, one DShk, and a burned pickup truck. They used the pickup like a kitchen where they had their meals. I rushed to the pickup and there I saw his cup, his spoon. I told [my husband] Khalil that these are our son’s belongings,” she said.

Khalil Mohammed, Hajar’s father, said they also searched a hospital in Kirkuk and then in Sulaimani, examining the bodies of other Peshmerga, looking for their son.

They finally found his body after Leyla recognized her son’s belongings.

“When I saw his body, he had his uncle’s beads in his pocket. The bullet belt of the PK machine gun was fastened to his body. We could not remove it from his body even when we buried him. We removed the beads. We cut one support bandage, but the other one was left in his boot, intact.”

His mother described how his body was found – in pieces.

“When I went to the mortuary, I saw one leg here and another there – until this half of his body,” she said while pointing to her waist as she wore the support bandage she recovered from her son’s belongings.

To confirm identification of Hajar’s body, the family relied on a DNA test.

Leyla says her son died for Kurdistan.

Hajar’s father, Khalil, said he has pride in his son’s sacrifice for Kurdistan.

“I am now proud. Since he fought for Kurdistan, I keep my head high. It is for the sake of Kurdistan,” he said, trying to wipe away his tears. “I am proud of him. The news of his death went viral among the party, our relatives, and across Kurdistan.”

Pictures of Hajar show him painting the flag of Kurdistan at the frontline. The same flag he painted was vandalized when Iraqi forces and Shiite militia took over the Peshmerga position near Kirkuk.

A Kurdish flag now flies high next to his grave.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/041120175
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