Tag Archive | "Iraqi"

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.

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Iraqi Forces Carrying Out Tortures in Mosul Mostly Supervised by US – Security Official


NOVANEWS
 

The Iraqi military, who were filmed torturing and abusing civilians, are “mainly supervised by US commanders,” a member of the Baghdad Security Committee, has said, telling RT that American military personnel have “some type of immunity” in such cases.

Saad Al-Muttalibi was responding after damning photos by freelance photographer Ali Arkady were released to the media. The pictures show Iraq’s elite Emergency Response Division (ERD) in Mosul torturing and abusing their captives suspected of having links with Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL).

“It is a war and a war is a horrible thing… It is a fact of war that innocent people will pay with their lives. Such action [torture and abuse] by army is definitely unsanctioned by the [Iraqi] government. We have a number of officers either facing trial or spending prison sentences here in Baghdad because of human right violations,” he said.

 

However, the problem is that military groups carrying out such violations are “mainly supervised by US commanders,” according to Al-Muttalibi.

“The rapid response units were trained by the Americans and are close to the US command,” he said. “They [US commanders] have some type of immunity that we can’t question them,” he added.

The American military has continued to work with the EDR despite the special forces unit being blacklisted in 2015 under the Leahy Act, which requires foreign military units to be banned from receiving US military aid if there is “credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

A US military spokesman, cited by ABC News, said that although an investigation into new evidence of ERD’s alleged atrocities is warranted, there is no legal reason why the US cannot continue to work with the unit.

“Leahy vetting does not prevent the US from working with the ERD, as we do with other elements of the Iraqi Security Forces, to help ensure a coordinated effort among different elements of the ISF in the fight to defeat ISIS in Mosul,” US Army Col. Joe Scrocca told ABC News.

In one photo series released by Akardy, the EDR soldiers are seen torturing a man in what is known as the strappado. It shows horrendous images where a detainee is hanged by his arms to the ceiling, blindfolded, with officers standing next to him and adding weights to his back to intensify the agony.

Al-Muttalibi told RT that the man in the picture “wasn’t murdered” and he “is alive.”

“The problem with that particular individual is that his son and his brother are members of ISIS. Unfortunately the officer in charge took matter into his own hands,” he said, adding, that the authorities are currently conducting an investigation into the matter.

Al-Muttalibi questioned if the pictures were taken in context, drawing an example of the “quality of the photos” and “the angles of light.”

“As if they [the photos] were orchestrated. The cameraman took a dramatic position to take the picture,” he suggested, adding that the officer who tortured the man and other troops are currently in custody.

Baghdad has taken full responsibility for the case, Al-Muttalibi said.

“Iraqi side is taking steps [to handle the situation], I can’t say the same about the Americans. We don’t know what they are doing.”

 

RT contacted the press service of General Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) which said that the Coalition “does not condone or support any violation of the laws of armed conflict.”

“Any violation of the law of armed conflict would be unacceptable and should be investigated in a transparent manner and those deemed responsible held accountable in accordance with due process and Iraqi law,” the statement said.

According to OIR, the US government’s

“support to the counter-ISIS campaign is conducted by, with, and through the central government of Iraq.”

“…At no time were US forces aware of or informed of these allegations until you brought them to our attention. At which point, we brought them to the attention of the government of Iraq and it is our understanding that they have already opened up an investigation into the allegations.”

Earlier, Human Rights Watch said the photos could possibly also cast a shadow on US and other members of the coalition in the Middle East.

“The US and other members of the anti-ISIS coalition risk complicity in Iraqi abuses given their participation in military operations with the country’s security forces,” HRW statement said.

Communications and Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch in Middle East & North Africa, Ahmed Benchemsi, has called on international governments to be careful when granting military support.

“What we recommend to the US and other international governments is to condition all military support on demonstrable and measurable steps to end abuses. Promises are not enough,” he said.

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Iraqi War Report: ISIS Combat Drones in Battle for Mosul


U.S. Violates Syrian Air Space: Drones Over Syria as Fighting Spreads

Global Research Editor’s Note:

The ISIS is an instrument of US intelligence. it is not an autonomous force.

The Combat UAV drones analyzed in this report were supplied to the ISIS by the Western military alliance and its Gulf partners.

The US is not waging a war against the ISIS, which is integrated by US and allied special forces and intelligence.

The ultimate objective of US-NATO is the destruction of Mosul under a fake counter-terrorism mandate.

Covert support has been channelled to the ISIS. The hidden agenda is the destruction of Iraq as a nation state.

Western media reports point to the “Liberation of Mosul” and the defeat of the ISIS without mentioning that the occupation of Mosul in 2014 by the ISIS was facilitated by US Forces.

A similar operation allegedly against the ISIS is being waged in Raqqa, Northern Syria.

Michel Chossudovsky, February  24, 2017

*        *        *

Iraqi military for the first time officially admitted their losses from bombing, carried out by small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), used by ISIS.

The casualties were suffered during incidents in eastern and southern Mosul on February 21. As the Daily Sabah newspaper reported, citing Brigadier General Abdul-Mahdi al-Ameri, an ISIS UAV “fired a missile” and killed two secondary school students in the district of Karaj Al-Shamal. Separately, three Iraqi servicemen were killed by a grenade, dropped from a quadrocopter in Furqan district, while two other soldiers lost their lives in the historical part of the city (the eastern part of Nineveh), and two others – in Al-Nour district.

In total, according only to the Iraqi government’s reports, 9 people were killed in attacks by UAVs. At the same time, ISIS claims that at least 30 Iraqi servicemen were killed as the result of dropping of various bombs from UAVs.

ISIS has been massively using various UAVs for the reconnaissance and correcting of artillery fire since 2014. However, since the end of 2015, the group has started to use its UAVs for aerial attacks. The compact Mosul battlespace allows to ignore problems with a lack of range of the used commercial UAVs. The fact that the city is separated by the Tigris also increases the role of UAVs in reconnaissance and ammunition supplies.

ISIS members launch UAVs from roofs of civilian buildings which allow, in general, avoiding artillery and aerial strikes from US-led coalition and Iraqi forces.

Warplanes are ineffective against small UAVs and Iraqi forces deployed to Mosul don’t have means of electronic warfare to ping and mute ISIS UAVs. While this problem is not solved, ISIS UAVs will pose a threat to Iraqi and US-led coalition military personnel on the ground and to play an important role on the Mosul battlespace.

ISIS is actively promoting its UAV attacks inits  own media outlets, de-facto encouraging the terrorist group’s supporters to use UAVs for terrorist attacks in Europe and across the world.

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