Archive | Iraq

Last ISIS Town Falls

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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

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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

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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.

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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)

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Voices from Syria

Mark Taliano

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Notes

[1] Gideon Polya, “Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide and US Alliance holocaust denial.” December 13, 2009,       (https://sites.google.com/site/iraqiholocaustiraqigenocide/polya-gideon) Accessed August 29, 2017

[2] Mark Taliano, “Mainstream Media is corrupt to the core.” American Herald Tribune, November 04, 2015. (https://ahtribune.com/politics/73-mainstream-media-corrupt.html” Accessed August 29, 2017.

[3] Michel Chossudovsky, “The Engineered Destruction and Political Fragmentation of Iraq.” Global Research, July 14, 2017. (http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-destruction-and-political-fragmentation-of-iraq-towards-the-creation-of-a-us-sponsored-islamist-caliphate/5386998) Accessed August 29, 2017.

[4] Mark Taliano, “ ‘Creative Chaos’ and the War Against Humanity. US-NATO Supports ISIS.” Global Research. May 29, 2017. (http://www.globalresearch.ca/creative-chaos-and-the-war-against-humanity-us-nato-supports-isis/5592499) Accessed August 29, 2017.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

Posted in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAEComments Off on Saudi Zio-Wahhabi, UAE secretly worked for Kurdistan secession

Naziyahu lobbies world powers to support Iraqi Kurds’ secession bid

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Image result for Netanyahu IN NAZI UNIFORM CARTOON

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lobbying world powers to support the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region from the rest of the Iraqi territory, as Kurdish Peshmerga forces are losing ground to Iraqi army forces in the country’s oil-rich northern province of Kirkuk.

Israeli officials, requesting anonymity, said Netanyahu raised the Kurdish plans for independence with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, and with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

The 67-year-old Chairman of the Likud party also made a reference to the issue in his contacts with French authorities.

An Israeli official, who declined to be named, stated that the Tel Aviv regime has security interests in Kurdistan.

“This (territory) is a foothold. It’s a strategic place. It would be best if someone gave them weaponry, and whatever else, which we cannot give, obviously,” the official said without providing further detail.

Israel has maintained military, intelligence and business ties with Iraqi Kurds since 1960s.

“The issue at present is … to prevent an attack on the Kurds, extermination of the Kurds and any harm to them, their autonomy and region, something that Turkey and Iran and … other powers in Iraq and part of the Iraqi government want,” Israeli Intelligence Minister, Israel Katz, alleged in an interview with Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM on Friday.

“The prime minister is certainly engaging the United States, Russia, Germany and France to stop the Kurds from being harmed,” Katz said.

On Friday, Iraqi government forces wrested control of a strategic sub-district of Kirkuk province following clashes with Peshmerga forces.

“Iraqi Federal Police and Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces, along with fighters from Popular Mobilization Units – commonly known by the name Hashd al-Sha’abi, have secured Kirkuk’s northern Altun Kupri sub-district,” the Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Iraqi Army Captain Jabbar Hasan said Iraqi federal forces had given Peshmerga forces 24 hours to vacate their strongholds in Altunkopru, and withdraw to areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Peshmerga forces, however, had rejected the ultimatum, Hasan said.

The referendum on secession of the Kurdistan region was held on September 25 despite strong opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the international community, and Iraq’s neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.

Following the vote, Baghdad imposed a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.

On October 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start.

“The KRG must first commit to Iraq’s unity. The local authorities in the [Kurdistan] region… must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on… oil exports, [as well as] security and border protection, including land and air entry points,” the unnamed Iraqi official added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already demanded the annulment of the referendum.

During a recent press conference in Paris, Abadi said his government did not seek confrontation with Iraqi Kurds, but reiterated Baghdad’s position that the vote was illegal and that problems should be solved within the framework of Iraq’s constitution.

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Will the Kirkuk Campaign Lead to Regime Change in Kurdistan?

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The Iraqi federal government commenced a military intervention in the Kurdish-occupied oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

This area has long been disputed between the Iraqi central authorities and the Kurdish Regional Government of Northern Iraq, and Article 140 of the post-2003 US-imposed “constitution” decreed that a referendum was supposed to have been held here before 2008. Such a vote never took place due to the country’s dire security situation and misplaced priorities at the time, but the Kurdish-claimed city take part in a different referendum last month when they voted for independence from Iraq. The Kurdish military forces, or Peshmerga, occupied Kirkuk in 2014 after they drove Daesh out of the city, which they had previously conquered after expelling the Iraqi Army shortly beforehand. Baghdad declared the vote illegal, while Erbil said that it gave the Kurds the right to negotiate independence from Iraq, stressing that they wanted to achieve their ends as peacefully as possible.

According to the Iraqi Constitution, the Kurds’ moves are illegal, hence why Prime Minister Abadiasked them several times over the past month to reverse their pro-independence path, allow the return of federal forces to their region, and surrender Kirkuk back to the central government. The Kurds refused to do any of this, which is why the Iraqi Army was ordered to reclaim the disputed city in what was a largely non-violent operation, albeit one which the Kurds described as a “declaration of war”. Right now the situation is very tense, since the federal forces are reluctant to sweep into the formal territory of the Kurdish Regional Government out of fear that this might provoke an all-out civil war, though they nevertheless need to reestablish their presence there if they want to have any hope of stopping the Kurds’ secession.

It’s in this context that it’s relevant to mention that Iraq has most likely coordinated its response with its Turkish and Iranian neighbors, both of whom are confronting their own armed Kurdish separatists as well. None of these three state parties want to create the false impression that they’re waging a “War on the Kurds”, nor do they have any intention of launching a trilateral Arab-Turkish-Iranian occupation of Kurdish territory in Northern Iraq because of how unsustainable this would be from a military perspective. Instead, what they’re seeking to do as a worst-case scenario is carry out a “regime change” in the region by ousting the separatists and replacing them with Baghdad-friendly “federalists” until a new round of elections can be held by the Kurdish Regional Government, one which the pro-independence forces would be barred from participating in unlike the upcoming ones scheduled for 1 November.

It’s very possible that the end result of this prospective effort could see the Barzani family’s political monopoly over Iraqi Kurdistan broken once and for all, which could herald in a completely new era for the region and change many of the international partnerships that were brokered by this powerful clan.

 

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Iraqi Seizure of Oil-rich Kirkuk from Kurds Risks Broader War

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an offensive by Iraqi army units and pro-government Shia militias Monday to capture the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). The attack, which reportedly provoked clashes in some areas between Iraqi units and Peshmerga fighters, threatens not only to further destabilize Iraq, but could prove the trigger for a broader catastrophic conflict that could quickly engulf neighboring Syria, drawing in regional and imperialist powers.

The retaking of Kirkuk took place after Baghdad negotiated the voluntary withdrawal of Peshmerga forces aligned with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) faction, which is hostile to KRG president Masoud Barzani and opposed September’s Kurdish independence referendum. The referendum, which returned a substantial majority in favor of independence, was condemned by the regional and imperialist powers, and denounced by Baghdad as unconstitutional.

Barzani declared the Iraqi advance to be an act of war and ordered the Peshmerga under his command to use all available resources to fight back. KRG officials accused the PUK of a “betrayal” for failing to resist the Iraqi advance.

The loss of Kirkuk will be a devastating setback to Barzani’s independence plans. Control of the oil reserves from the area represented an important source of income for the KRG, which established a pipeline to Turkey to bypass Baghdad and sell oil on the world market.

While Peshmerga forces remained in control of oilfields outside Kirkuk Monday, Irbil reportedly had to halt oil supplies to Turkey as engineers failed to report to work. Eurasia Group estimated that of the 600,000 barrels a day shipped by the KRG to Turkey, 450,000 barrels would fall under the control of the Iraqi central government if it establishes a secure hold over Kirkuk and surrounding regions.

While US military figures and the corporate media sought to downplay the scale of the clashes Monday, the Iraqi army’s advance will have explosive consequences and poses the danger of a renewed wave of sectarian bloodletting that could rapidly engulf the entire region. Both sides have not only been armed to the teeth and trained by the US and its imperialist allies over recent years, but are contesting areas which are of major economic and geostrategic significance. Added to this, the extremely fragile situation in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, as the US and European imperialist powers jostle to advance their interests and regional powers like Turkey, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia are drawn ever more closely into a complex web of alliances that are increasingly in flux, and the true extent of the danger posed to the region’s long-suffering population becomes clear.

Kirkuk was a prize possession of the KRG. The oil-rich city and surrounding oilfields have been under Kurdish control since 2014, when Iraqi forces fled before the advance of ISIS. In last month’s referendum, Barzani controversially included the ethnically diverse city in the area considered to be part of an independent state, hoping thereby to seize control of its oil wealth. Baghdad responded furiously, vowing to use the military to restore its control.

Primary responsibility for the ethnic and sectarian conflict lies with US imperialism and its allies, which have systematically encouraged Kurdish regional ambitions in northern Iraq since the illegal US-led invasion in 2003. At the same time, Washington helped establish a Shia-dominated puppet regime in Baghdad that conducted a brutal crackdown on Sunni areas of Iraq, while refusing to countenance any move by the Kurds towards independence.

Having destroyed Iraqi society, creating the political and social conditions within which regional and ethnic conflicts could assume such malignant forms, US imperialism is now hypocritically seeking to pose as a neutral arbiter between Baghdad and Irbil, appealing to both sides to show restraint. Its main goal in this is to prevent all-out civil war in Iraq, since this would cut across Washington’s broader agenda in the Middle East of pushing back Iranian influence and consolidating an alliance with the Gulf states and Israel to secure US dominance over the energy-rich and strategically important region.

However, US actions are the most destabilizing factor. While backing both the KRG and Iraqi central government with financial and military resources, as well as personnel on the ground, Washington is relying chiefly on Kurdish allies in Syria to oust the Islamic State from its rapidly shrinking territory, and, much more significantly from the Washington’s point of view, prevent forces loyal to Iran and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad from emerging in control of eastern Syria. This would facilitate Tehran’s establishment of a land bridge to Damascus, Lebanon and the Mediterranean coast, a development which would be a major strategic blow to the US, and its major Middle East ally, Israel.

Though the Syrian Kurds are not on good terms with Barzani, instead aligning themselves with the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), Ankara, Baghdad and Tehran all view the emergence of strengthened Kurdish autonomous areas in northern Syria and Iraq as intolerable. Turkey has once again over recent days sent troops into northern Syria to block the emergence of a contiguous Kurdish territory on its southern border, prompting sharp protests from the Syrian government that its sovereignty is being violated. Further escalating tensions in Syria, the Israeli Air Force carried out a strike on a missile battery near Damascus Monday morning, claiming it had fired at Israeli reconnaissance planes over Lebanon.

Ankara condemned Barzani’s independence referendum and held talks with Iran about a possible military intervention. It has pledged to hand over border crossings between Turkey and the KRG to the Baghdad government. With a Turkish military base in northern Iraq not far from Mosul, Ankara could also be drawn into the fighting if it spreads.

A Turkish government statement praised the Iraqi offensive, claiming that it was necessary to drive out PKK forces which were allegedly being harbored by the KRG. It noted, in what amounted to a threat of a direct military invasion, that Ankara is “ready for any form of co-operation with the Iraqi government in order to end the PKK presence in Iraqi territory.”

This follows the provocative declaration by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the Kurdish referendum that Irbil’s actions could spark an “ethnic war.”

The Iraqi offensive comes just days after US President Donald Trump vowed to blow up the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran, unless the pact is renegotiated to meet Washington’s demands. His announcement not only aggravated tensions between the US and Iran throughout the Middle East, with Washington’s commitment to target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) operations in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, but brought to light the widening rift between US imperialist policy and that of its European rivals.

Should the fighting in Iraq spread, Iran faces the immediate prospect of being dragged into the conflict. Substantial numbers of Iranian military personnel, including members of the Revolutionary Guards, have been embedded in the Iraqi military to strengthen it in its operations against ISIS, a fact which was reportedly important in preventing Trump from designating the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” in his Iran speech Friday.

In addition, the Shia militias which have joined the Iraqi army advance into Kirkuk are under Iranian influence. The Guardian reported that Qassem Suleimani, head of the IRGC’s Quds force, helped direct the offensive.

Unconfirmed reports Monday indicated that ethnic strife has already begun. Kurdish commanders claimed that advancing Iraqi forces had burned villages south of Kirkuk. Large numbers of people were said to be fleeing the city, while the Kurdish governor of the region appealed to everyone with arms to resist Baghdad’s advance.

The Iraqi government has asserted that the Shia militias or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), who are notorious for anti-Sunni and anti-Kurdish attacks, have agreed not to enter Kirkuk itself, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city including Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds. But already by Monday afternoon, there were reports of two senior PMU commanders entering the city to watch Iraqi flags being raised over government buildings.

Al-Abadi released a statement Monday proclaiming that the military operation sought to “protect the unity of the country” and urged Kurds not to resist.

An indication of the violence in store for the region is given by the fact that the Iraqi advance was led by elite forces from Baghdad’s Counter-Terrorism Force, which led the murderous assault on Mosul that, in conjunction with US air strikes, laid waste to much of the city and claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives.

Posted in IraqComments Off on Iraqi Seizure of Oil-rich Kirkuk from Kurds Risks Broader War

Kurdish SDF Terror Proxies Re-Occupy (What’s Left of) Raqqa, Syria

NOVANEWS

The occupation and destruction of Raqqa, Syria, by Western-supported terrorists, is now transforming itself into a re-occupation by “Kurdish” SDF terror proxies who are taking the place of the previous place-setters — ISIS/Daesh — many of whom are now being re-deployed elsewhere.

As with Mosul, Iraq,1 NATO’s ISIS assets occupied and terrorized the area for years, as Coalition forces illegally bombed the area – pretending to fight ISIS — destroying at will the ancient city, and killing mostly civilians.

As with Mosul, Iraq, the desired imperial outcome of catastrophic destruction and depopulation has been achieved.

But, whereas the endgame of now destroyed Mosul, Iraq has yet to unfold, (apart from ISIS being channeled to Syria), the endgame in Raqqa, Syria, is more transparent.

Permanent Syrian resident Lilly Martin explains the catastrophe in these words:

Oct 14, 2017: Reqaa, Syria was the ISIS headquarters. The US backed Kurdish traitors went in with the pockets full of dollars paid by Saudi Arabia, and their weapons all free from Uncle Sam. They did FREE Reqaa of the ISIS, but in doing so the US backed Kurds have committed genocide and ethnic cleansing, killing and stealing the lands, homes, farms and shops of all the Syrian citizens. Notice that Mosul, Iraq was liberated, and the Iraqi citizens got their city back. But in Syria, the US military is backing some ethnic-killer-militia called SDF, and the unarmed civilians of Reqaa are either dead, maimed or living in a refugee camp, with no hope to return home. Go ask Pres. Trump what that is all about. I can not understand why this is allowed to happen, and the whole world is busy talking about a sex scandal – crime in Hollywood?2

The anti-democratic, ethnic-cleansing SDF — stooges for the illegal US occupiers — are now posing as “liberators”, when in fact they are the new occupiers of Raqqa, Syria.

As with all of the terrorists who have infested Syria for the last seven years, the “Kurds” would not be a military threat without the direct support of the illegal Western Coalition forces occupying and destroying Syria.

Notes

1 Mark Taliano, “The Islamic State as ‘Place-Setter’ for the American Empire. ISIS is the Product of the US Military-Intelligence Complex.” Global Research, 30 August, 2017. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-islamic-state-as-place-setter-for-u-s-empire-isis-is-the-product-of-the-us-military-intelligence-complex/5606371) Accessed 15 October, 2017.

2 October 14, 2017 Facebook commentary

Posted in IraqComments Off on Kurdish SDF Terror Proxies Re-Occupy (What’s Left of) Raqqa, Syria

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