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Iraqi Civilian Describes US Airstrike on His Home That Killed His Wife, Daughter, Brother and Nephew


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Today we spend the hour looking at a damning new report that reveals how US-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq have killed far more civilians than officials have acknowledged. An on-the-ground investigation by the New York Times Magazine titled “The Uncounted” found the actual civilian death toll may be 31 times higher than US officials admit. We interview one of the survivors featured in the report. Joining us from Erbil, Iraq, Basim Razzo describes the 2015 US airstrike on his home in Mosul, in which his wife, daughter, brother and nephew were killed. Video of the strike on his home shows a target hit with military precision.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’m Juan González. Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world. Today we spend the hour looking at a damning new report that reveals how US-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq have killed far more civilians than officials have acknowledged.

The Pentagon claims its air war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State has killed few civilians. But an on-the-ground investigation by The New York Times has revealed the US-led military coalition is killing far more civilians in Iraq than it has acknowledged. The Pentagon claims just 89 of its airstrikes have killed civilians since 2014. But the Times found the actual rate of civilian deaths may be 31 times higher than the US is admitting. In fact, the report reveals that as many as one in five coalition airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq resulted in civilian deaths.

The reporters write, “In terms of civilian deaths, this may be the least transparent war in recent American history.” The investigation comes as US military officials continue to insist coalition bombing in Iraq has been precise in hitting its targets. This is Army Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend.

ARMY LIEUTENANT GENERAL STEPHEN J. TOWNSEND: I reject any notion that coalition fires were in any way imprecise, unlawful, or excessively targeted civilians. I would argue that this is, I believe, the most precise campaign in the history of warfare, and we have gone to extraordinary measures to safeguard civilian lives.

AMY GOODMAN: But The New York Times investigation reveals many of the American-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants actually killed civilians. One of the survivors they interviewed, Basim Razzo, described a coalition airstrike on his home in Mosul, Iraq, in 2015 in which his wife, daughter, brother, and nephew were killed. Video of the strike on his home shows a target hit with military precision.

Well, today we are joined by that man, Basim Razzo. He’s joining us from Erbil, Iraq, via Democracy Now! video stream. We’re also joined in studio, here in New York, by the two reporters who co-authored this New York Times investigation headlined “The Uncounted.”

Azmat Khan is an investigative journalist and a Future of War fellow at New America and Arizona State University, and Anand Gopal is an assistant research professor at Arizona State University and the author of No Good Men Among the Living. I want to start off in Erbil, Iraq, with Basim Razzo. Basim, that is not actually your longtime home. You lived in Mosul until 2015. Can you describe what happened on that fateful night when your home was hit by a US airstrike?

BASIM RAZZO: Good morning, Amy. Thank you for having me on your program. That night, as I said in my story, I went to bed around 1:00. I had just checked my daughter to see if she was asleep, and I lied down. And then I woke up to a devastating explosion. Did not realize what had happened. I felt that I was in a nightmare, but then I felt that something had happened, because I looked up to the skies and I could see the stars.

There was a terrible smell in the air. And then I started feeling my legs, pinching myself. I thought I was in a dream or in a nightmare, but no, it was reality. I looked to the left at my wife, and all I could see was debris. And I started shouting her name — “Mayada, Mayada.” She did not answer me. I started shouting at my daughter, Tuqa. No answer. And then I started shouting at my brother’s house, but I could not hear a sound.

Minutes later, I could hear a sound from far away, and it seems that it was the groundkeeper that we have. His house was about 500 meters from my house. Minutes later, he started shouting at me. He said “Uncle Basim, Uncle Basim, I am coming, I am coming. But I need to get a ladder so I can climb up. Are you OK?” I said to him — his name is [inaudible]. I said [inaudible] “Please, help me. I think I am very hurt and something is broken. I cannot move.”

I tried to stand up, but I fell down. I reached to my back because I felt my back was warm. And I touched my back, and then I felt something in my left arm. Something was warm. And it was blood. My back has been injured. My left foot had broken. My bed was in a v-shape, which resulted in a break to my hip. I tried to just move a little bit, but I could not move at all.

So minutes later, I could hear our groundkeeper climbing up to me. And then he came to me and he said “Are you OK? Are you OK?” I said, “I am badly hurt. What has happened to the other house?” That was my brother’s house. He said “I don’t know.” But I could hear a female sound. And then when I started shouting at her, it was my sister-in-law, Azza. And she said “Basim, everybody’s gone.”

But I could not see anything. It was very dark. The bombing has damaged the electricity. The street was dark. Everything was dark. And then about half an hour later, I could see somebody was walking, entering the farm with a torch light. And they climbed up the ladder and three members of ISIS were looking down at me. So the first thing I said to them, I said, “Are you happy?”They looked at me in disgust and they left me. They climbed down the ladder and they left.

But they had called an ambulance, but they did not let the ambulance come right away.
Because usually when there is a bombing, most of the time it is followed by a second bombing, so they wanted to stay out. So they left for another like 15 minutes. And then when they could hear that the planes were out of the sky, they ordered the ambulance to enter my farm.

And they took me down, put me on the ambulance, and they rushed me to the hospital. When I reached the hospital, it was chaos. I was disoriented. I didn’t know what was happening. I was in pain. And then I looked around and I could not know anybody. It was all ISIS members. But some person, he tapped on my shoulder and said, “Uncle Basim, don’t worry, I know you are here, my son.” He said, “I will be here for you. Don’t worry. Don’t worry.”

So he started rushing me — he cleaned my wound in my back. They did some x-rays for me. They did a CT scan for — they were afraid that I have like brain damage or hemorrhage. Thank God, I did not have anything. They put a cast on my left foot. And then I woke up the next morning around 10:00 with my brother-in-law and another friend, and they had told me what just happened. They told me that all my member family are gone.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Basim Razzo, our deepest condolences to you and your family. You mentioned that your brother’s house was next door. How many total members of the family were in both houses, and how many survived, and what kind of injuries did they have?

BASIM RAZZO: In my house, it was me, my wife, and my daughter. Two lost their life — my wife and my daughter. In my brother’s house, which was about 20 feet away from my house, it was my brother, his wife, and his son. Only his wife survived. So total, four deaths, two survivals.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you describe the last day with your wife and your daughter?

BASIM RAZZO: Well, usually, before ISIS, I could come home late, like 10:00 or 11:00.
But since ISIS entered Mosul, it is better for me and more comfortable for me to be home early. I would sit with my family, sit with my brother’s family, after sundown. We will go out to the farm. So it was just a regular everyday. I would come home from work around 5:00 or 6:00. I’d have dinner with them.

AMY GOODMAN: You had had a party the night before at your brother’s house?

BASIM RAZZO: We had a party, like a party for women. And my daughter and my wife attended that party. And then we just have tea. And then when it’s — and it is sundown, when the temperature cools down a little bit. Because you know, it was September. It is very hot in September in Iraq. So about 8:00 or 9:00, we would go out to the front yard. We would have tea, maybe some cold drinks. Maybe we will have some fruits. And then we would stay late until like 10:00 or 11:00. And that was my hours before my accident.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And your mention of the strike — how often were these airstrikes visited on Mosul or on your neighborhood in particular? Were these regular occurrences or was this an unusual occurrence in your neighborhood?

BASIM RAZZO: Well, at that time, there was not that much bombing, before the liberation of Mosul. You would hear some bombing every now and then, but it was not that often. But you could hear drones in the sky. But for bombing, it was not that often.

AMY GOODMAN: There is a picture in The New York Times investigation of your daughter Tuqa on the night before the airstrike. She’s got that sparkler you describe.

BASIM RAZZO: Yes. She had found it somewhere. I think it was — I don’t know if we had bought it earlier for her birthday, but it was left somewhere, and she had found it. And she lit it. And I was shouting at her because it was dangerous to light it inside. I told her, “Tuqa, honey, why don’t you go outside?” She said, “No, it’s not working. I think it is damaged because of the humidity, so it is not sparkling that much. So I will be safe. I’ll be safe.” So thank God she was safe. But she lost her life later.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back and hear what happened next. Has the US claimed responsibility for what it did to your family? We will be joined by the two reporters who have investigated the attack on not only your home and your brother’s, but so many others in Mosul, Iraq.


Posted in USA, Iraq0 Comments

Iraq Defeated ISIS, but the Battle Against Extremism Rages On


A suspected ISIS fighter sits in a basement as Iraqi forces continue their advance against Islamic State militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, July 3, 2017. (AP/Felipe Dana)

The military campaign against the Islamic State is almost over. But now, locals and politicians alike say, the Iraqi government must work to ensure they cannot return to recruit more followers.

Posted in Middle East, Iraq0 Comments

Referendum Blues Redux: Kurdistan, Catalonia and the Nazi regime

Referendum Blues Redux: Kurdistan, Catalonia and Israel

BFFs: Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani making plans with Israeli leader Bibi Netanyahu.

Dr Can Erimtan
21st Century Wire

Identity Politics and the Spectre of Micro-Nations

The recent referenda that have taken place in Spain (1 October 2017) and Iraq (25 September 2017) have managed to upset the status quo considerably. The first referendum did not trigger, but greatly augmented the momentum carried by the votes cast in Italy’s Lombardy and Veneto subsequently (23 October 2017), votes cast in favour of “greater autonomy.”

One of the most vocal proponents of these Italy-based movements towards self-reliance and particularly fiscal probity, the political scientist Professor Marco Bassani, recently said that “the disintegration of this kind of European order,” as encapsulated in the EU as a supposedly happy union of nations and states, is now on the cards. instead, Bassani argued that “[t]here will be a confederation in Europe . . . in like 10-15 years from now, but not based on the nation-states that we know” now, even predicting that “[t]here might be easily 35 to 45 new countries coming up” in Europe – micro-nations and independent regions and/or domains, arguably. And the theoretical basis of such Europe-wide splinter entities is furnished by an 18-page tract published in 1992 by the Dutch beer tycoon Freddy Heineken (1923-2002): The United States of Europe (a Eurotopia?). The journalist and map-expert Frank Jacobs puts it like this: “[t]he theory behind Heineken’s idea is that a larger number of smaller member-states would be easier to govern within a single European framework than a combination of larger states competing for dominance. [And, in turn,] Heineken might [himself] have been inspired by the work of Leopold Kohr [1909-94],” an Austrian philosopher whose most influential work is a book entitled The Breakdown of Nations (1957) –  a text arguing that the whole of Europe should be “cantonized,” into small-scale political units as supposedly common in the pre-nation state era. But these cantonization efforts would not really serve the common people or regular citizens of Europe. They would rather benefit the large corporations running the show behind the scenes in true post-democratic fashion, employing the concept coined by Professor Colin Crouch in the year 2000. Still, the ubiquity of identity politics in the contemporary world as well as a universal love of the underdog leads many to support separatist movements and other forms of micro-nationalism, and the formation of micro-nation states.

The Paris-based Irish journalist and political analyst Gearóid Ó Colmáin correctly points out that the “rule by the dictatorship of [a] financial oligarchy” constitutes “fascism” and hence his contention that “[t]rans-national financial elites want to make the European Union into the political representation of their power.” And hapless Euro-citizens all around pledge their support for ever smaller and ever more minute identities longing for freedom and independence, not realising that a “return to Europe’s medieval micro-states” basically constitutes “the best way of creating a supranational European federation,” ruled by moneyed puppet-masters operating ‘behind the curtain.’

From Catalonia to Kurdistan

One should not forget, however, that the nation-state is but a relatively recent phenomenon, appearing in the aftermath of the French Revolution (1789) and subsequently dominating first Europe and then the rest of the world till today. But a nation-state is nothing but a political and social construct, corresponding to a ‘imagined community,’ to use Benedict Anderson’s 1983 coinage, inscribed upon a ‘geo-body.’ The latter phrase was, in turn, coined by Thongchai Winichakul to denote the ‘most concrete identification’ of nation’s dreams and aspirations, effectively tangible on the ground and plainly visible on a map. In the 21st century, previously seemingly unitary nations seem to splinter easily into its component micro-ethnicities and other socio-cultural identities and/or communities. In this context, John Feffer‘s words that “[f]rom Catalonia to Kurdistan, long simmering regions are clamoring for their own state” appear significant though somewhat misleading. As a distinct ethnic group the Kurds (c. 30 million) at present live dispersed over about four different states in the region (from Turkey over Syria to Iraq and Iran), with additionally a sizeable portion of Kurds (c. 11 million) actually inhabiting the West (Canada, U.S. and Europe).

Originally, ‘Kurdistan’ was but an ethnic geo-body embedded in larger state structures (basically, the Ottoman and Safavid/Qajar states in early modern times), a geo-body lacking its own sovereign administrative organisation though. In the aftermath of the Great War (or World War I, 1914-18) and the Ottomans’ surrender, the Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920), in line with Woodrow Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points‘ (8 January 1918), contains a “Section” which stipulates the creation of a “Committee” to “draft . . . a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia . . . and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia” (Section III, Article 62). And moreover, the next article even holds that the “Turkish Government hereby agrees to accept and execute the decision . . . within three months” (Section III, Article 63).

Kurdish populations and settlements in the Middle East (Source: Medya Magazine)

From Minority to Micro-Nation: Kurdistan

The emergence of an Anatolian resistance movement led by Mustafa Kemal (to be known as Atatürk, 1881-1938) and the Turkish victory over the Greek invaders in 1922 was to usher in peace negotiations leading to the signature of the Treaty of Lausanne (20 November 1922-24 July 1923) – a treaty which made the earlier agreement null and void, quashing Kurdish hopes for an independent state.

On the other hand, Lausanne sanctioned the formation of the Republic of Turkey as a Turkish nation-state (29 October 1923), a nation-state that effectively employed social engineering and official propaganda to absorb any and all ethnic groups and sub-groups into the Turkish mainstream. Within this wider framework, the Kurds, however, constituted the one major exception and remained steadfastly beholden to their own ethnic and linguistic identity. As a result, though Turkey still houses the largest Kurdish minority on its soil, state repression and persecution of Kurds remained a constant throughout the Kemalist era (1923-2002), and from 1984 onwards the Kurdish Workers’ Party (or PKK) commenced an armed struggle against the Ankara government. The eminent Kurdish specialist Mesut Yeğen opines that the “Turkish state’s engagement with the Kurdish question [traditionally] stood on three pillars: assimilation, repression and containment.”

In the 21st century the advent of the overtly Islamic Justice and Development Party (or AKP), founded and led by the charismatic Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez since August 2014), seemed to offer a glimmer of hope. On 12 August 2005, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan gave a memorable speech in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakır (known as Amed in Kurdish), where his words signalled a veritable paradigm shift with regards to Turco-Kurdish relations. In fact. Tayyip Erdoğan became the first Turkish politician ever to speak of a “Kurdish problem,“ whereras previously politicians and public figures alike had shied away from using the term or even acknowledging the existence of the Kurds as a separate ethnic group in Turkey. In fact, the AKP leader went a whole lot further, as he declared that “[p]roblems do not have partial owners. All problems, be they Turkish, be they Kurdish, be they Circassian, be they Abkhaz, be they Laz, are the common problems of the citizens of the Republic of Turkey . . . For everyone is the creation of the same soil, [everyone is] a human being [created by the same soil], this is what it means to be a [nation of] people.“

These words spoken by Tayyip Erdoğan early in his career on the national stage contained a first hint at what I have termed the AKP ‘Policy of Sunnification,’ as a programme containing every Turkish Islamist’s dream of expunging Atatürk’s legacy and returning the one true religion (or din-i mübin, in Turkish) to its supposedly rightful place in Turkish society and politics – a policy that really came into its own after the year 2010, I would suggest. The main goal of this policy was (and still is) to transform the Turkish citizenry into homogenous body of Hanafi Sunni Muslim believers, united in their faith ordained by the Directorate of Religious Affairs (or Diyanet, in Turkish) and living happily together within the spatial boundaries of the geo-body of the Republic of Turkey. In this way, the noun ‘Turk’ as a short-hand for Turkish citizen (as explained in the Turkish Constitution, Article 66) would become synonymous with ‘Muslim.’ In the context of this particular AKP programme the Kurds play an important role. Public opinion in the West, hyper-sensitivised by the higher-mentioned ubiquity of identity politics in the contemporary world, is well-acquainted with the plight of the Kurds in Turkey, and regards them as a persecuted ethnic ‘minority,’ deserving of support and sympathy. In reality, though, Turkey is home to a great many ethnicities and sub-ethnicities or ‘minorities,’ if you will, as I explained at length in 2013. I would argue that the AKP leadership regarded solving the  ‘Kurdish problem’ as containing the key to unlocking the whole of Turkey’s citizenry’s Islamic identity. The AKP leadership’s preoccupation with Turkey’s Kurds also led to a rapprochement with the Kurdish Regional Government (or KRG) in Northern Iraq, with the National Security Council (or Milli Guvenlik Kurulu/MGK), convening in 24 April 2008, to suggest enhancing relations with “all Iraqi groups” and subsequently, Murat Özçelik (then-Turkey’s Special Envoy to Iraq) and the future wily FM Ahmet Davutoğlu (at the time acting as the PM’s chief advisor for foreign affairs) meeting the KRG President Masoud Barzani in October.

Some ten months later, on 11 August 2009, Tayyip Erdoğan gave yet another speech – a speech that inititated the National Unity and Brotherhood Project and the so-called Democratic Overture, which carried the formulation of a bona fide Peace Process in its wake. The AKP MP Aydın Ünal, who has acted as Erdoğan’s speech writer for the duration of eight years, has compared this particular speech to Mustafa Kemal’s address to mark the opening of the nation’s parliament on 23 April 1920. Whereas the latter’s words gave rise to the establishment of the Republic in three years’ time, Tayyip Erdoğan’s were meant to usher in peace and security as well as a happy co-habitation of Kurds and Turks within the confines of the state established by Mustafa Kemal.

Less than three years later, on 21 March 2013, during the Nowruz (or traditional new year’s festival, spelt Nevruz, in Turkish) celebrations in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakır (known as Amed in Kurdish) “the imprisoned terrorist [PKK] leader Abdullah Öcalan (Apo)“ had a “written message, a letter, broadcast publicly to a crowd of hundreds of thousands“ gathered there. Apo’s words were unequivocal: “Let guns be silenced and politics dominate . . . The stage has been reached where our armed forces should withdraw beyond the borders . . . It’s not the end. It’s the start of a new era.” And, two days later the PKK announced its ceasefire. The following two years were marked by a conspicuous absence of terror attacks in Turkey. At the time, the KRG President Massoud Barzani was also highly supportive of these developments, calling the Peace Process a “vindication of our long-standing policy that the Kurdish question is a political issue and that this question cannot be resolved through armed or military means.” As a result, cosy relations between Ankara and Erbil ensued, with “hundreds of Turkish companies present in Northern Iraq” and the flow of “billions of dollars in trade.” And more importantly, with AKP-led Ankara benefitting greatly from the KRG’s underground oil and gas wealth, much to the Baghdad government’s chagrin and even Washingon’s objections. Back in April 2013, I wrote that the KRG’s “lucrative oil exports seem to have persuaded [AKP-led] Ankara that peace at home can only lead to peace abroad, paraphrasing Atatürk’s well-known dictum.”

As a corollary, on 26 June 2014, the AKP government submitted a six-article bill, entitled “Draft Law to End Terror and Strengthen Social Integration.” At the time, the then-Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay stated publicly that the Peace “[P]rocess is approaching a stage where problems will be solved, violence will end, people will leave their arms and come down from the mountains and live a normal social life with rehabilitation.”

Sacrificing the Peace Process

But all good things come to an end, and due to political circumstances and, arguably,  electoral misfortunes, in the summer of 2015, the Prez and his AKP henchmen anew unleashed Turkey’s military might: “as if by happy coincidence, the terror threat posed by Kurdish nationalism and the PKK once again reared its ugly head forcing Turkey to take retaliatory military measures, inside the country as well as across the border on the grounds of the KRG in Northern Iraq. At the same time, next door’s not so civil war in Syria managed to insert itself into Turkey’s frame as well, targeting the local Kurds and their political party the HDP [or The Peoples’ Democratic Party]. The terror attacks in Suruç (20 July 2015) and Ankara (10 October 2015) were quickly blamed on the Islamic State (IS) and led to a concerted government crackdown on sleeper cells in such diverse locations as Diyarbakır and Pendik. Even though the country’s Kurds and the HDP had been the primary targets of the IS attacks on Turkish soil, the main beneficiary was nevertheless the AKP. Over and again, Tayyip Erdogan spoke publicly about the fact that the PKK and its Syrian ally the PYD [or Democratic Union Party, active in Syria] were the same as the Caliph and his IS. The Prez convincingly equated ‘Kurdish terrorists’ with ‘Islamist freedom fighters’ in the minds of his many listeners at home as well as abroad so that they saw no option but to vote for stability over insecurity, thereby assuring a landslide return to power of the AKP” on 1 November 2015.

Turkey’s Kurds vis-à-vis Iraq’s Kurds

I would argue that the real reason behind the failure of the much-vaunted Peace Process is to be found in the outcome of the arguably inconclusive elections of 7 June 2015, necessitating a re-run five months later. Following the June elections, the AKP did not possess a large enough mandate to form a government on its own, yet coalition talks failed to get underway, with the mainly Kurdish HDP gaining access to parliament, much to the chagrin of nationalists and Islamists alike. As a result, on 20 August, Turkey’s Supreme Election Commission (or YSK) suggested that an election re-run be held on November, 1st.

At the time, many Kurds and their sympathisers as well as critics of Erdoğan regarded the recent IS attacks as somehow orchestrated by the AKP government, claiming the existence of close tiesuniting both enemies of Bashar al-Assad, “ties that could very well go beyond a mere tactical alliance and instead be based on ideological commonalities.“ Following the Suruç suicide attack, the HDP issued a statement imploring its supporters to ‘constitute a peace block opposed to ISIS [or the IS]. It is the [AKP-led] government that is responsible for any kind of security breach,’ allowing the suicide bomber to enter the Amara Cultural Centre in the small Turkish town of Suruç and kill more than 30 innocents. The HDP declaration next minces no words: “[t]oday we have witnessed once more what this army of rapists and barbarians that has lost its human dignity is capable of . . . All the countries and regimes supplying ISIS [or the IS] and other armies of rapists with support are accessories to this barbarity. The leaders in Ankara who are stroking the head of ISIS [ or the IS, as we speak and who] have even flung threats at the HDP, who remain silent in the face of ISIS [or the IS], [and] who are even afraid to raise their voices, [they] are accomplices to this barbarity’.“ In fact, two days prior to polling day on June, 7th, “[t]wo blasts ripped through a Kurdish rally” in Diyarbakır, “killing two people and injuring more than 100.” In the aftermath of the blasts “armored police vehicles arrived with a fusillade of tear gas before a single ambulance was in sight,” according to witness as reported by Caroline McKusick. The perpetrators of the attack were never apprehended, and at the time, the news agency Reuters reported that “Demirtas has said his party has been the target of more than 70 violent attacks during the campaign.” A little more than a month after the June elections,  the Suruç terror attack occurred (20 July 2015) and two days later (22 July 2015), two police officers were shot dead in the town of Ceylanpınar – the attack was claimed by the PKK, stating that  the killings were “retaliation” for the Suruç bombing. It seems possible to detect a certain pattern in this succession of provocations and counter-provocations, which could lead one to conclude that Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP henchmen willingly sabotaged the Peace Process in order to gain electoral success, leaving Turkey’s Kurds high and dry as a result.

But south of the border, in the KRG, President Barzani had already announced in 2014 that a referendum on Kurdish independence in northern Iraq would be held. At that stage, Barzani told the press that he “can’t fix a date right now but definitely it’s a question of months. But of course it must be decided by parliament.” And now, three years later, that day has finally come and gone: 25 September 2017. The Baghdad government vehemently opposed the referendum, and was joined by Ankara and Tehran. And last month, a serious crisis seemed imminent with military conflict a distinct possibility – I even wrote that “all-out ethnic war could just be around the corner now.” Particularly, as the Kurds had occupied the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the wake of the Islamic State’s dramatic appearance on the scene, effectively annulling the Sykes-Picot-ordained reality on the ground. But, contrary to expectations, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters abandoned the city without a fight. So that in the end, it seems that outside pressure exerted behind the scenes must have prevailed, and on Wednesday, 25 October 2017, the KRG released a statement offering “to freeze the results of [the] earlier referendum on independence as part of an offer to defuse the crisis with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, as reported by Reuters. The news agency added that the “statement also called for an immediate ceasefire and a halt to all military operations in the northern region [of Iraq’s territories]. The KRG called for an open dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad based on the country’s constitution.”

In response, Iraq’s PM Haider al-Abadi (image, left) declared that his government “won’t accept anything but its cancellation and the respect of the constitution.” This probably means that a protracted war of words lies ahead and its outcome is as yet uncertain. In the midst of this turmoil, President Barzani’s term of 12 years had been extended for another two, but in the aftermath of the failed referendum, Barzani indicated that he would (eventually) step down as KRG president. As a result, it seems that the Baghdad government has prevailed, preserving the state’s territorial integrity while re-acquiring the lands occupied by the Caliph and his IS.

In a similar vein, Spain’s government is now cracking down on the Catalan independence movement, with Madrid imposig direct rule over the breakaway region and the Catalan parliament unilaterally declaring independence on Friday, 27 October 2017. But rather than resigning like his Kurdish counterpart, the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont remained defiant, flying to Brussels yet indicating that he is not seeking political asylum while remaining vocal in his opposition to the Madrid government.

A Second and Third Israel?!??

The KRG’s neighbours have together formed a united front against the formation of an independent Kurdistan, that could have had a possible domino effect in its wake affecting Turkey and Iran, as well as Syria, and thus potentially lead to the emergence of a Greater Kurdistan.

Other regional players, though, seem more favourably inclined towards such a development – or, rather one player, namely the state of Israel. Prior to the referendum, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (or Bibi) stating unequivocally that “the Kurds have been and will continue to be reliable and long-term allies of Israel since they are, like us, a minority group in the region.” As worded by the always knowledgeable Seymour Hersh in 2004, “[t]hroughout the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Israel actively supported a Kurdish rebellion against Iraq, as part of its strategic policy of seeking alliances with non-Arabs in the Middle East.”

And more recently, following the ill-fated Bush invasion of Iraq in 2003, Israel has been actively supporting the Kurds in the north, in order to attain strategic leverage regarding Iran in the east and, at the same time, giving in to the attraction exerted by the KRG’s underground oil and gas wealth. In view of these dangerous-yet-largely-unseen links, Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki has recently unambiguously declared that Iraq “will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north” of the country. At the same time, though, the State of Israel is also very much in favour of other secessionist movements: The writer and geopolitical analyst Manuel Galiana Ros, for instance, indicates that there has been a long-standing link between Israel and Catalonia, adding that the Catalan “local police are trained in Israel by the Mossad.” Back in 2012, the HaaretzEnglish editor Adar Primor declared categorically that “Catalonia will soon be the state of the Catalan people, [just as] Israel is first and foremost the state of the Jewish people.”

Does this now mean that Israel, as a state founded to house the Jewish people from across the globe in the midst of the Arab world, is actively looking for and supporting other minority nations close by and farther afield?!?  And how would the people of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Spain feel about such unseen machinations liable to upset their daily lives and the continuation of peaceful relations?!??  Or, is Israel merely following the tide of the times, advocating the emergence of micro-nations and independent regions and/or domains, and in doing so lending credence to its own ethno-religious claim to a homeland – while corresponding to ever more minute identities propagated for the benefit of some unseen interests trying to divide and rule the world?

Yet, in both cases the timing seemed off, and the requirements of nation states prevailed over micro-aspirations and Zionist  machinations behind the scenes . . . for now.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Iraq0 Comments

The ISIS-Daesh Killing Field: A Letter from Iraq – Grief, Forgiveness, and 20 Million Pilgrims


RI contributor Pepe Escobar with an exclusive, on-the-scene report, with original photography from a region gradually liberating itself from ISIS.

Featured image: The largest pilgrimage in the world, 15 times bigger than Mecca

Nothing, absolutely nothing prepares you to revive, on the spot, the memory of what will go down in history as ISIS / Daesh’s most horrid killing field in Iraq or Syria since the death cult stormed across the border in the summer of 2014; the Speicher massacre of June 12, 2014 – when almost 2,000 Iraqi army recruits were assassinated in and nearby a former Saddam Hussein palace on the banks of the Tigris near Tikrit.     

As Dylan would sing it, “ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet”. In 2003, a few days after Shock and Awe and the fall of Baghdad, I took the road to Tikrit for Asia Times to survey Uday Hussein’s bombed palace as well as his father’s birthplace, only to return 14 years later to one of those palaces turned into a house of horror.

The Speicher killing field was gruesomely staged – and filmed – by Daesh only a few days after the fall of Mosul. Daesh’s Salafi-jihadi goons were feted as “liberators” by many a Sunni tribe around Trikrit just as 10,000 Iraqi Army recruits from different provinces, mostly Shi’ites, were being trained at an Air Force academy nearby.

With Daesh fast advancing and the Iraqi Army at the time dissolving by the minute, the youngsters were ordered to switch into civilian clothes, leave their weapons behind, and go home. As they were literally walking back to their home provinces they ended up falling in a lethal Daesh trap. Bearing echoes of the Nazi era, the youngsters were divided into Sunnis and Shi’ites – with the Shi’ites bundled in trucks described as their “transportation” home. Instead they were taken to what would become a killing field framed by decaying Saddamist architecture.

The horror, the horror

It’s late evening on a windless Monday – and I’m standing at the eerily silent exact spot of one of the killing field’s sites, captured by a Daesh propaganda video in part of this harrowing footage. Hayder Atamiri, the official representative of the Tikrit massacre committee, almost in tears, swears, “all the tribes in the area took part in this”. He’s convinced the massacre took place in “an icon of Saddam” and it was “revenge for Saddam’s death”.

Daesh leaders presided over a gruesome ritual from a balcony as three jihadis summarily killed the recruits with a bullet in the back of the head. Today, discreet shrines with pictures of the dead surround the balcony. So far 1907 victims have been catalogued – many from Iraq’s Shi’ite-majority and/or poorer provinces (for instance, 382 from Babylon, 254 from Diwaniya, 132 from Karbala, 119 from Diyala, 99 from Najaf.)

Atamiri says locals at the time found roughly 90 bodies “and the rest drifted away” along the Tigris. Nearby, Daesh goons “dug trenches, used bulldozers and covered the bodies with rocks.” No less than 14 mass graves have been found, 13 of them “already excavated.”  Two more mass graves were identified “but there’s no proper storage for the remains yet.”

Other figures by the Iraqi Ministry of Health list 1,935 dead – with 994 bodies found, 527 fully identified, 467 under examination and still 941 missing. A systematic search for human remains only started in March 2015 – eight months after the massacre – when Tikrit was finally recaptured by Baghdad’s forces.

Compared with Ramadi or Mosul, Tikrit suffered very little damage as it was reconquered largely by Hashd al-Shaabi, a.k.a. the People Mobilization Units (PMUs), called into action by Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s 2014 fatwa. Atamiri is adamant “Hashd was the only force liberating Tikrit.” And crucially these fighters were not Shi’ites; they were Sunnis.

Yezen Meshaan al-Jebouri, the son of the governor of Tikrit, Raed al-Jebouri, head of the Salahuddin PMU brigade – and a member of the very prominent Sunni Jebouri family, which was historically inimical to Saddam Hussein, had previously confirmed to me in Baghdad; “Local tribal leaders encouraged the work of Hashd. They understood we believe in Iraq’s political system.” Almost a third of the PMU force – a total of around 20,000 fighters – is Sunni. As al-Jebouri stressed, “Tikrit returned to its people. And Tikrit University was protected.”

In the complex Iraqi tribal chessboard, the local consensus is that certain Wahhabi-tinged jihadis were part of the Speicher massacre, but that did not translate into a collective Sunni endeavor. Daesh killed Sunnis as well, and Sunnis helped at least a few Shi’ites to flee.

Atamiri is adamant, “only Hashd stood with us. Now they are maintaining peace and won’t allow any extra-judicial revenge”. He frames the whole battle ahead as the need to “eradicate extremist ideology” and notes that some Daesh jihadis, when captured, “tried to show remorse, but that is very difficult for us to believe. And some of them are now living in European countries.”

Families of the murdered youngsters silently exhibit photos of their sons and ask “international bodies to do something”. They all agree; the response from the “international community” has been shameful. Still, the Tikrit massacre committee vows to keep the memory of Speicher alive. Mothers of victims have been to Geneva to ask for help as well as mental health support for quite a few families, and plan to visit again in June 2018.

This has been one of Iraq’s most devastating nightmares of the past three decades. After such sorrow, what forgiveness?

Keep walking towards redemption

It’s possible. From agony to ecstasy. There could not be a more radical contrast between darkness and light than taking the road to Najaf – the Iraqi Vatican, and fourth holiest city in Islam – and Karbala, alongside millions of black-clad pilgrims during the annual celebration of Arba’een, the “40th Day” of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein.

Countless tents, tea shops and impromptu restaurants, festively decorated, line up the road to Najaf and Karbala. Suddenly we’re thrown into the vortex of the largest gathering of humans in history, way outdoing the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca; nearly 20 million people as opposed to about 1.5 million. Here is the account of my own pilgrimage in 2003 – a few days after the fall of Baghdad.

To be inside the Imam Ali shrine – in all its glimmering, refracted glory – is a religious experience in itself, the apotheosis of Shi’ite rituals of redemptive suffering (readers interested to know about Arba’een may consult scholar Seyyed Hosein Mohammad Jafri’s book The Origins and Early Development of Shi’a Islam.)  

The Imam Ali shrine, in all its splendor, is managed, at the highest instance, by the marja’iya – the religious sources of emulation, mostly personified by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, whose office is in a narrow alley nearby; and in practice, by a foundation. According to its secretariat “more than 20 million people are registered in the shrine”.

Najaf welcomed refugees of the fight against Daesh by the tens of thousands; Sunnis from Anbar province, Christians, Shi’ite Turkmen from Tal Afar; “Now many are back to their communities”. The PMUs are incredibly popular – their white flags fluttering everywhere alongside black Imam Hussein and multicolored Imam Ali banners.

The shrine is proud to at least assist in helping victims from the Speicher massacre; “The government may be shorthanded”.

I was in Najaf last week, at the start of the pilgrimage. But the apex of Arba’een is today, November 10. And that happens in the most extraordinary of historical circumstances; the final defeat of Daesh.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) announced on Wednesday it had captured Albu Kamal, the last town held by Daesh in Syria – after Iraqi forces captured its sister town across the border, al-Qaim. In Baghdad, before leaving to Najaf, I was assured by a top PMU commander that al-Qaim would be retaken “in a matter of days”: four, in the end, to be exact.

None of this is getting traction in Western media. The final victory on the ground against Daesh, in Syria, was accomplished by the Syrian army with help from Russian strategy and air power, and in Iraq by the Iraqi army and the PMUs. Syrian and Iraqi forces are symbolically reunited at the border.

Meanwhile, at this very moment, millions of souls – Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, Pakistanis, northern Africans, Central Asians, Persian Gulf nationals – are being soothed via the massive, cathartic walk from Najaf to Karbala. A pilgrim captured the spell – spiritual redemption merging with political statement – as he told me, with the flicker of a smile, the walk is also “a protest against terrorism”.

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Last ISIS Town Falls

FILE PHOTO An Iraqi soldier monitors the Iraq-Syria border point, Abu Kamal © AZHAR SHALLAL / AFP

The Syrian Army and its allies have captured the last major stronghold of Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL), according to RT Arabic. Iraqi mobilization units also reportedly took part in the operation, local media reports.

Syrian government forces have captured the town of Abu Kamal located in the Euphrates valley on the border with Iraq, according to an RT Arabic correspondent and local TV.  The town was one of the last major settlements held by Islamic State terrorists.

A video published on a YouTube account affliated with the pro-government forces shows Syrian Army soldiers and allied forces from various militia groups as well as Hezbollah fighters celebrating their victory in Abu Kamal. The footage shows Hezbollah fighters posing with the group’s flag as well as Syrian soldiers and allied militia posing with the national Syrian flag.

A video published on a Hezbollah-linked YouTube channel shows Syrian Army soldiers and their allied forces from various militia groups as well as Hezbollah fighters celebrating their victory in Abu Kamal. The footage shows Hezbollah fighters posing with the group’s flag as well as Syrian soldiers and allied militia members posing with the national Syrian flag.

The soldiers on the video appear to be wearing Syrian and Iraqi army uniforms. The landscape in the video also appears to be consistent with the terrain around Abu Kamal.

© Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation
Russian long-range bombers & submarine launch ‘massive strike’ on ISIS hideouts in Syria (VIDEO)

The city of Deir ez-Zor, which endured years of IS blockade, was breached by the Syrian army with the support of Russian airstrikes early in September.

On November 3, the Russian Defense Ministry said IS-controlled areas in Syria had shrunk to less than 5 percent of the country’s land area. Earlier, the Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, said Islamic State controlled “more than 70 percent of Syrian territory” before Russian Air Forces started its operation in the Middle Eastern country.

The liberation of Abu Kamal marks the ultimate end of the territorial ambitions of Islamic State, Joshua Landis, head of the Middle East Studies Department at the University of Oklahoma, told RT. He added that Islamic State has now lost all the major settlements it controlled while being pinned down by the Syrian and Iraqi armies in the border region between the two countries.

“The two armies met up and liberated this last major town [held by Islamic State],” Landis, adding that “this is the end of ISIS as a ‘state’.” He also pointed out that the terrorists are now being prevented from freely moving between Syrian and Iraqi territory, making the fight against them much easier.

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Iraq and Iran, Sharing a Neighborhood. U.S. 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A Boost to Iranian Influence


In Iraq, as in Syria, the imminent extinguishing of the mini-state of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or IS) is raising the question of whether U.S. objectives in Iraq really are focused on countering IS or will balloon into some other reason to keep American forces there indefinitely. The most common rationale voiced by those arguing for an indefinite stay is to counter Iranian influence. The rationale echoes alarms sounded by the Trump administration and others about an Iran supposedly on the march and threatening to bring most of the Middle East under its sway. The alarms are filled with unsupported zero-sum assumptions about what any Iranian action or influence means for U.S. interests.

Those tempted to succumb to the alarms as they apply to Iraq should bear in mind two important realities about the Iraqi-Iranian relationship.

The first is that the biggest boost to Iranian influence in Iraq was the U.S. invasion of March 2003. One effect of the whole costly, unpleasant history of the United States in Iraq—including the initial conquest, later surge, and all the ups and downs of occupation—is that Iranian influence is much greater now than it ever was while Saddam Hussein was still ruling Iraq. If Iranian influence were the overriding worry about the Middle East that the rhetoric of the Trump administration makes it out to be, this record strongly suggests that an unending U.S. military expedition would not be a smart way to assuage that worry.

The second key reality is that Iraq and Iran, for reasons of geographic proximity and a bloody history, are necessarily huge factors in each other’s security. Outside actors can’t shove aside that fact by talking about filling vacuums, pursuing their own self-defined rivalries, or imposing zero-sum assumptions that do not correspond to ground truth in the Persian Gulf region.

The extremely costly Iran-Iraq War, begun by Iraq and fought from 1980 to 1988, is the most prominent part of the bloody history and a formative experience for leaders in both countries. Accurate figures on the war’s casualties are not available, but deaths numbered in the hundreds of thousands for each country. According to mid-range of estimates of those killed in the war, the combined death toll was probably somewhere around three-quarters of a million. The war was the deadliest conflict in the Middle East over the past half century.

Against that historical backdrop, it behooves the leaders of both Iraq and Iran to keep their relationship on an even keel. Although the two neighbors still have differing interests, it is in their larger security interests for cordiality to prevail over conflict in their bilateral relationship. The governments in both Baghdad and Tehran appear to realize that.

It helps that the two countries have, along with their differing interests, some important parallel interests. Chief among those right now are their interests in quashing IS and in not letting Kurdish separatism tear pieces out of each country’s sovereign territory. These interests also align with declared U.S. objectives about fighting IS and upholding the territorial integrity of Iraq, although this fact often seems to get overlooked in the United States amid the obsession with opposing Iran and confronting it everywhere about everything.

Interests in Peace and Stability 

Many countries, including the United States, share a general interest in peace and stability in the Middle East—for numerous reasons, including how the lack of peace and stability encourages the sorts of violent extremism that can have consequences beyond the region. It follows that having more cordiality than conflict in the Iraq-Iran relationship, which was so disastrously explosive in the recent past, also is in the general interest.

That peace and stability inside Iraq is in Iran’s interest as much as in other countries’ interests gets overlooked amid obsession-related caricatures of Iran as fomenting instability wherever and whenever it can. Persistent instability in a country with which Iran shares a border of more than 900 miles is not in Iran’s interest. It is ironic that this fact seems hard to accept by those who habitually use the term “spread of instability” in opining about security issues in the Middle East.

Iranian leaders also are smart enough, and informed enough about Iraqi affairs, to realize how destabilizing narrow-minded sectarian favoritism would be and how easy it would be to overplay their own hand. However empathetic the Iranians are to their Shia co-religionists, they realize that Sunni-bashing policies do not constitute a formula for stability on their eastern border. They also are aware of Iraqi nationalist (and Arab) sensitivities. They can see such sensitivities even in cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, commonly described as a Shia zealot, who recently made friendly visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are among the chief regional rivals of Iran.

Amid these realities, it is jarring and inappropriate for the United States, in obsessively seeking confrontation with Iran, to lecture the Iraq government about how the Iranian-supported militias need, in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, “to go home.” It is not surprising that such preaching raised the dander of the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, which pointed out that the militias in question, although armed and trained in part by Iran, consist of Iraqis. Abadi further stated, in response to this U.S. effort to tell the Iraqis how to organize their internal security efforts, “No side has the right to intervene in Iraq’s affairs or decide what Iraqis should do.”

Abadi later understandably expressed his frustration with Trump administration efforts to make his country a playing board for Washington’s game of seeking confrontation with Iran. Abadi said,

“We would like to work with you, both of you [meaning the United States and Iran]. But please don’t bring your trouble inside Iraq. You can sort it [out] anywhere else.”

Iraqis are contemplating not only how the Iranian-backed militias have done much of the heavy lifting in defeating IS in Iraq. They also can see most recently the constructive behind-the-scenes Iranian role in resolving the standoff with the Kurds over Kirkuk and nearby oilfields in a way that advanced the objective of Iraqi territorial integrity and sovereignty with minimal bloodshed. Abadi’s own government can rightly claim most of the credit for this result, and the prime minister’s domestic political stock has risen as a result. But to the extent that any outside player played a positive role, it was Iran. The United States does not appear to have contributed to the outcome to any comparable degree.

American Lack of Understanding

Two basic reasons explain the U.S. obtuseness in failing to recognize and understand the regional geopolitical realities mentioned above. One is the demonization of Iran and fixation on opposing it everywhere on everything, to the exclusion of attention given to the many other facets of security issues in the Middle East.

The other reason is the chronic difficulty that Americans, relatively secure behind two ocean moats, have had in understanding the security problems, and responses to those problems, of nations without similar geographic blessings. This was the reason that, during the Cold War, “Finlandization” became a U.S. term of derision aimed at countries that deemed it advisable to observe certain policy limits in order to live peaceably as neighbors of the Soviet Union. It is today a reason for failing to appreciate fully how Iraqis analyze what is necessary to live peaceably in their own neighborhood.

Such understanding would come more easily to Americans if they had experienced wars with their North American neighbors that had been as bloody as the Iran-Iraq War. And perhaps such understanding would come if today Iran were lecturing the Canadians and Mexicans about how to organize their internal security and how they need to reduce U.S. influence.

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The Islamic State as “Place-Setter” for the American Empire


The Islamic State as “Place-Setter” for the American Empire. ISIS is the Product of the US Military-Intelligence Complex

“ISIS” is a product of the US Military-Intelligence complex. The word itself connotes “ISlam”, and so from the very beginning the construct serves to create Islamophobia, which is a necessary pre-condition for the US Empire’s holocaust-creating footprint overseas[1]. War requires hatred and ISIS fits the bill. The fact that ISIS’ deeds are entirely anti-Islamic is of no importance.

Rita Katz[2] et al. beheading videos and domestic false flag terrorism all serve the necessary function of engineering consent for a War On Terror which features as its main star the West’s very own terror proxies – ISIS. ISIS itself is a false flag in the sense that whereas ISIS is the designated enemy, the psychological operation conceals the fact that ISIS is also us – they are the Empire’s foot soldiers.

In terms of military strategy, ISIS is used as a “place-setter”. Empire directs ISIS to areas that it wants to destroy – under the false pretext of going after its own assets (ISIS et al.) so that it can destroy the target area even as it relocates the “target”.

Consider, for the example, Mosul, Iraq. Prof Chossudovsky explains in “The Engineered Destruction and Political Fragmentation of Iraq”[3] that the US co-opted the Iraqi military to “allow” ISIS into Mosul in the first place — so that the city could then be destroyed, and civilians massacred, in the name of going after ISIS.  Subsequently, ISIS was relocated from Mosul to Syria.

ISIS is also being used as a “place-setter” in Syria. Similar military strategies have been deployed in the occupation and destruction of Raqqa, Syria.

ISIS convoy leaves Raqqa, Syria

Similarly, the U.S coalition is using ISIS as a “place-setter” for a proposed “Kurdistan” region.[4]

Even as Syria and its allies defeat NATO terrorism, ISIS will continue to make its presence felt in areas of the world that dare to resist the U.S Empire’s dictatorship.


All of the post-9/11 wars were sold to Western audiences through a sophisticated network of interlocking governing agencies that disseminate propaganda to both domestic and foreign audiences. But the dirty war on Syria is different. The degree of war propaganda levelled at Syria and contaminating humanity at this moment is likely unprecedented. I had studied and written about Syria for years, so I was not entirely surprised by what I saw.

(Excerpt from Preface, Mark Taliano’s book “Voices from Syria“, Global Research Montreal, 2017)

Order directly from Global Research (also available in PDF)


Voices from Syria

Mark Taliano







[1] Gideon Polya, “Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide and US Alliance holocaust denial.” December 13, 2009,       ( Accessed August 29, 2017

[2] Mark Taliano, “Mainstream Media is corrupt to the core.” American Herald Tribune, November 04, 2015. (” Accessed August 29, 2017.

[3] Michel Chossudovsky, “The Engineered Destruction and Political Fragmentation of Iraq.” Global Research, July 14, 2017. ( Accessed August 29, 2017.

[4] Mark Taliano, “ ‘Creative Chaos’ and the War Against Humanity. US-NATO Supports ISIS.” Global Research. May 29, 2017. ( Accessed August 29, 2017.

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US-backed SDF Forces Won Oil Race on Eastern Bank of Euphrates ‘Video’


On October 26, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued their successful operation on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and entered the oil fields of al-Tanak and Galban, according to pro-Kurdish sources. Earlier, the US-backed force reportedly established control over the oil fields of Azraq and Jarnof, Saban, Northern Omar, Maleh and Mqaat.

Thus, the SDF de-facto won the race for the oil and gas infrastructure located in the area with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

Pro-opposition sources reported that ISIS just handed over the al-Tanak oil field to the SDF within the framework of the previously reached agreement. No more details were provided. Most likely these reports are linked to the alleged SDF-ISIS deal reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on October 22. According to this report, ISIS was set to surrender the entire area including Hajin village to the US-backed force.

Pro-SDF sources explain the situation with the top-class US air support and combat characteristics of SDF troops.

On October 25, the SAA liberated the Industrial Area and a large part of Khassarat district from ISIS in the city of Deir Ezzor. Now, government forces are aiming to separate further Saqr Island from the rest of the ISIS-held area in Deir Ezzor. When this is done, the SAA and the NDF will be able to isolate the remaining ISIS units in Saqr Island and to clear it from the terrorists.

The separatist Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is facing hard times in Iraq. On October 24, the Department of Foreign Relations of the KRG released a statement asking for a ceasefire with forces of the Federal Government. In return, it promised to “freeze the results of [independence] referendum”, and asked for “an open dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government on the basis of the Constitution.”

However, on October 25 and October 26, Iraqi forces advanced further in areas seized by KRG forces beyond the borders of the Kurdish autonomous region. Experts believe that the army and its allies will continue operation in the contested areas until KRG military forces fully withdraw from it.

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Saudi Zio-Wahhabi regime seeking foothold in Iraq

Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih (R) arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for talks on expansion of mutual economic bonds. (Photo by AFP) Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih (R) arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for talks on expansion of mutual economic bonds. (Photo by AFP)

Saudi Arabia has taken a step forward in what appears to be a strategy to gain a foothold in and thus expand its influence in Iraq.

The kingdom on Saturday sent its Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih to Baghdad to look for avenues to boost cooperation over oil market issues.

Al-Falih delivered a speech at a key trade fair in the Iraqi capital on the same day through which he praised the existing coordination between Riyadh and Baghdad to boost oil prices.

In his speech at the opening of the Baghdad International Exhibition, the Saudi minister emphasized that cooperation between the two countries contributed to “the improvement and stability we are seeing in the oil market.”

“The best example of the importance of cooperation between our countries is the improvement and stability trend seen in the oil market,” said Falih, to applause from the audience of Iraqi ministers, senior officials and businessmen, as reported by Reuters.

Falih is the first Saudi official to make a public speech in Baghdad for decades. The two countries began taking steps towards detente in 2015 when Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad for talks on issues of mutual concern – the first visit by a Saudi official in 25 years.

The Saudi minister is reported to have further agreed in a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Jabar al-Luaibi to cooperate in implementing decisions by oil exporting countries to curb global supply in order to lift crude prices.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq are respectively the biggest and second biggest producers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Saudi Arabia has been under pressure from a sluggish growth in economy, oil cuts, a huge budget deficit as well as heavy foreign borrowing.

The war against neighboring Yemen has also squeezed the country’s economy further. Based on a recent Harvard study,  the war on Yemen is costing Saudi Arabia up to $200 million a day.

The Arab monarchy now seems to be looking to secure a foothold in Iraq, a country with rich natural reserves and an exceptional geostrategic position.

The visit to Baghdad by the Saudi oil minister comes as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Riyadh to discuss regional matters.

Tillerson is also expected at landmark meetings between Saudi and Iraqi officials – an initiative which is seen as part of Washington’s strategy to pull Baghdad away from Iran and toward Riyadh.

America’s top diplomat will later leave for Doha and later on to New Delhi and Islamabad in his multiple-day regional tour.

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Saudi Zio-Wahhabi, UAE secretly worked for Kurdistan secession

Saudi Arabia's King Salman (L) talks to president of Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRG) Masoud Barzani in Riyadh, Dec. 1, 2015.Saudi Zio-Wahhabi King Salman (L) talks to president of Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRG) Masoud Barzani in Riyadh, Dec. 1, 2015.

Like Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have supported the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s push for secession in an attempt to “clip the wings” of Turkey, Iran and Iraq, a report says.

In an article published on Saturday, David Hearst, the editor in chief of the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal, drew a parallel between Tel Aviv’s stance on the Kurdish vote and that of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

The controversial Kurdish referendum took place on September 25, sparking strong objection from Baghdad and Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Iran and Turkey.

Only Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly voiced support for what he called the “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”

Major General Yair Golan, former Israeli army deputy chief, also defended the Kurdish secession as well as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey.

“From my personal point of view the PKK is not a terrorist organization, that’s how I see it,” Golan said.

Al Saud and Tel Aviv see eye to eye

According to the report, while Saudi Arabia officially called for the cancellation of the plebiscite, behind the scene it supported the Kurds’ plans to split the Arab country and question the territorial integrity of its neighboring states.

The Saudi Royal Court reportedly dispatched a series of emissaries to encourage Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to go on with his secession project.

Former Saudi military general, Anwar Eshki, was among those figures who explicitly said that working for the creation of a greater Kurdistan would “reduce Iranian, Turkish and Iraqi ambitions.” 

“This will carve away one third of the territory of each country in favor of Kurdistan,” he reportedly said.

Eshki further told Russia’ Sputnik news agency that he believes “the Kurds have the right to have a state of their own” and claimed that Iraq had “gone far in marginalizing the Kurds.”

In July 2016, the ex-Saudi general paid a visit to Israel and met with a senior Israeli foreign ministry official and a number of Israeli parliament members.

Israeli daily Haaretz at the time described the visit as “a highly unusual one,” as Eshki could not have traveled to Israel without approval from the Saudi government.

UAE adds voice  

A “reliable source” told the MEE that Barzani’s son, Masrour, who heads the Kurdistan Region Security Council, made a secret visit to Abu Dhabi just a month before the September referendum.

UAE academics operating under the license of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued statements of support for the Kurdish vote.

Emirati professor Abdullah Abd al-Khaliq published a map depicting what he called the future state of Kurdistan and called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to penalize the Iraqi Kurdistan because of its “democratic” referendum.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s president Masoud Barzani (L) meets with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on June 17, 2015.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi official told The New Arab media outlet that Erbil had signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Ibtesam al-Ketbi, chairwoman of the Emirates Policy Center, to help organize the Kurdish vote.

The New Arab quoted another Iraqi official as saying that UAE Consul in Kurdistan Rashid Al-Mansouri had visited a polling station in Erbil. The UAE, however, denied the report.

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