Sheikh Hatem Al-Taei, Mayor of Kirkuk, has published a preliminary list of 7 000 inhabitants that had been kidnapped and detained by the Barzanis’ Secret Police, Assayish, during the Kurdish occupation of the district.
If the prisoners’ families were to protest, then these prisoners would be sure to disappear.
Massoud Barzani’s PDK had annexed the Arab region of Kirkuk and had hoped to integrate it into a pseudo-Kurdistan under Israeli protection. The region has just been liberated by the Iraqi army. The occupation troops left without doing battle and more than 100 000 Kurdish colonels fled.
The victims were non-Kurdish inhabitants, principally Arabs, that might be Sunni or Christian but also even Turkoman.
ERBIL — In the ongoing crisis over independence for the Kurds of Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government is accusing the United States of helping terrorists by supplying military support for Iraqi government forces in the fight for Kirkuk province.
In a statement sent to Yahoo News, the Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, charged that the Iraqi Shia militias, known as the Hashd al Shaabi, “launched a large-scale attack on the peshmerga forces using American weapons that have been supplied to the Iraqi army” earlier this month. The attack was carried out “with the participation of Iranian artillery,” the statement charged.
The Kurdish prime minister’s office also provided a photo of one of the Iraqi commanders, identified as “deputy head of the Popular mobilization forces [PMU] Hashd al Shaabi – Abu Mahdi Muhandis.” Muhandis was described as a “listed terrorist by [the] U.S.”
Muhandis was indeed considered to be a terrorist by the U.S. after a series of bombings in Kuwait in the 1980s. He was also known to work for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Hezbollah militia under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The Iraqi authorities, in recent days, took full control of oil-rich Kirkuk after peshmerga forces surrendered their positions.
The conflict was ignited when the Kurds, an ethnic group occupying a semiautonomous region in the northern part of Iraq, voted to secede and form an independent Kurdistan, though the vote itself was nonbinding.
According to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, the ease with which the Iraqi military reclaimed Kirkuk demonstrated national unity, and Kurdish independence was “a thing of the past.” While the referendum vote was not binding, it was opposed by every country except Israel.
The Iraqi Media War Cell, the military’s media team, told Yahoo News the Kurdish government is “accused of treason.” Iraqi courts have issued arrest warrants for the Kurdish vice president and other Kurdish leaders. The media team also said citizens were celebrating the Iraqi military’s control and emphasized that soldiers would not discriminate against any ethnic group, including Kurds, Turkmen, Christians or Arabs.
But the Kurdish authorities accuse the Iraqi government of allowing the Iranian-funded Shia militias to lead an ethnically divisive campaign against the Kurdish people.
According to the Kurdish regional Security Council, Muhandis launched “unprovoked attacks against the people of the Kurdish region” using heavy weapons.
Iraq is one of few countries in the Middle East region that maintain a relationship with both Tehran and Washington. But the U.S. has opposed the growing influence of Iranian Shia militias in Iraq and discouraged their involvement in the fight against the Islamic State.
The U.S. does supply the Iraqi military with foreign military funding amounting to more than $250 million a year in weapons and training. But the American-led coalition that has been fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq said it is “monitoring movements of military vehicles and personnel in the vicinity of Kirkuk. These movements of military vehicles, so far, have been coordinated movements, not attacks. Coalition forces and advisers are not supporting Government of Iraq or Kurdistan Regional Government activities near Kirkuk, but are aware of reports of a limited exchange of fire. The Coalition strongly urges all sides to avoid escalatory actions.” U.S. forces also said their sole mission is focused on defeating ISIS.
In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, four members of Congress have noted the Kurds’ alarming warnings over the Shia militias and asked the State Department to intervene and “broker an immediate ceasing of offensive hostilities” and to “seek a long term diplomatic solution.” The representatives were Ralph Abraham, R-La., Jared Polis, D-Colo., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.
During Tillerson’s trip to the Middle East, he said the U.S. is “concerned and a bit sad,” adding, “We have friends in Baghdad and friends in Irbil, and we encourage all parties to enter into discussion.”
Tillerson went on to raise questions about Iran’s influence over Iraq, but Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi has rejected Tillerson’s concerns.
The U.S. sided with the Iraqi government against holding the referendum and has not committed to helping the Kurdish region gain independence. But it has also supplied the Kurdish peshmerga with weapons, equipment and training in the fight against ISIS.
The Kurdish authorities have held off declaring independence since the referendum by freezing the results. But Abadi says the move does not go far enough: “We won’t accept anything but its cancellation and the respect of the Constitution.”
The Kurdish officials have also accused the militias of torturing Kurdish citizens and sent Yahoo News video clips that often included screams in the background. Yahoo News could not independently verify the content of the videos.
Kurdish protesters have also taken to the streets in opposition to the popular mobilization forces run by Muhandis, and aid organizations are concerned about civilians caught in the middle of clashes between the Kurdish and Iraqi government forces. At least 30,000 Kurds have been displaced, according to Amnesty International.
Human Rights Watch stated, “Iraqi and Kurdish forces need to resolve the current crisis in ways that fully respect human rights and avoid harming civilians or their property,” and they have recommended the Iraqi authorities investigate allegations of looting and destruction of homes.
The Iraqi prime minister has continued to defend his position and is working on strengthening ties with both Turkey and Iran. But Kurdish authorities are concerned Iraqi officials have forfeited an opportunity to negotiate on the future of the province and arrive at a peaceful solution, choosing instead a military solution.
Ash Gallagher is a journalist covering the Mideast for Yahoo News.
The vote in the independence referendum for an Iraqi Kurdistan of 25 September 2017 was a sham – for the vote was rigged. This fact is now boomeranging back to those who initiated it: the Barzani family and the Taliban family.
During the referendum campaign, the Kurdish regional government of Iraq declared that 80 countries in the world — including the United States and France — were in support of establishing a new State. This argument appeared decisive for a number of voters.
The General of the Guardian of the Iranian Revolution, Qasem Soleimani, alerted the Barzanis at the last minute. The arrival of 200,000 Israelis and the stationing of missiles in the Iraqi Kurdistan can only open a new war. But the Barzani family did not wanted to take on board any of this information.
Taking the initiative, the Iraqi national troops then liberated the region of Kirkouk and its oil fields from Kurdish occupation, on 16 October. More than 100 000 Kurds, had installed themselves there and coordinated their activities with Daesh and had expelled the indigenous population. In two days they fled. Yet the international community has failed to react.
The Iraqi national government has just returned to the Arabs, Christians and Muslims territories that had been stolen from them. It has also avoided Turkey intervening and occupying the country.
The Western media which has not stopped supporting the Barzani dictatorship, have said nothing about:
the political assassinations of those who oppose the Barzanis;
the impossibility of holding elections but the possibility of organizing a referendum;
their agreement with Israel;
their agreement with Daesh;
their responsibility in the genocide of the Kurdish Yezidis; and
the annexation of 80% of their territory within just a few years.
And no medial spotlight is shone on the ethnic cleansing which follows.
The Iraqi Kurds realize, but a bit too late, that the Barzani and Taliban have taken them for a ride. No country apart from Israel can admit the creation of another state established through annexation and ethnic cleansing.
Massoud Barzani, who is the de facto but not the de jure President of the Iraqi Kurdistan, will no longer be able to artificially extend his mandate for much longer. Without waiting, the Taliban have acted sensibly and have distanced themselves from Erbil’s illegitimate power.
Bagdad has just issued an arrest warrant for Kosrat Rasul, the de facto but not de jure Vice President of the Iraqi Kurdistan, for his role and for his speech when Kirkouk was set free.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces have clashed in the town of Altun Kupri on the border of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, security official said, as Baghdad continues its offensive in the wake of a controversial referendum on Kurdish independence.
Iraqi security and pro-government militias descended on Altun Kupri, which lies some 50 km (30 miles) to the south of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, early on Friday.
Video footage from the Kurdish front lines showed columns of smoke rising and what sounds like gunshots being heard in the distance.
In a statement, the Peshmerga General Command said it had repelled the Iraqi advance and destroyed a number of vehicles, including an American-made Abrams tank.
“In the morning of Friday October 20, 2017 at 8am, the Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilization Forces] militias using American weapons which were given to the Iraqi army launched a widespread attack on the Peshmerga forces in [Altun Kupri] Pirde with the Iranian artillery units also involving,” read the statement published by the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.
“Until now, all of the attacks have been repelled and forces defeated and more than 10 Humvees and an Abrams tank were destroyed. In the confrontation, the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces have bravely put up a defense, achieving a great dignity for them.”
However, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said that the military have secured the town and the area around it.
“Altun Kupri is now under the total control of federal forces,” the ministry said in a statement quoted by Al-Jazeera.
Pictures on social media appear to show Iraqi soldiers in the town, displaying captured Kurdish flags.
A security source told AFP that Iraqi forces managed to “hoist the flag on the municipality building” in Altun Kupri as the sides exchanged mortar and automatic gunfire.
The sources also said that Kurdish general Ghazi Dolemri was killed in the fighting on Friday.
It’s unclear how many have been killed or wounded in Altun Kupri, but hospitals have confirmed they are dealing with a number of casualties.
An Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that two bridges had been destroyed and local people were fleeing the scene, while the Kurds were sending in reinforcements.
According to Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, the governmet forces have extended its territory to within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of Kurdish capital, Erbil.
AFP reported further shelling as Iraqi troops and militias advanced on Sirawa, located five kilometers north of Altun Kupri.
The district of Alton Kupri lies on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and disputed territories formerly under its control, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which had been seized by the Kurdish peshmerga forces during the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) advance of 2014.
The fighting in Alton Kupri comes days after the Iraqi military captured the regional capital of Kirkuk on Monday, where fighting also broke out with Kurdish militias.
Though Kurdish peshmerga fought alongside Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militias in the campaign against Islamic State, relations with the central government in Baghdad have taken a downward turn since then.
In September, the Kurdish government went ahead with a controversial referendum on independence, with 93 percent of voters opting for sovereignty. This drew the ire of not only Baghdad but also Turkey and Iran, which have their own large Kurdish minorities.
As a result, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered his military to take control of the contested areas including Kirkuk Governorate, and government forces began advancing on the region on Monday.
The Western Press is presenting Daesh as a racist organization that would be fighting Kurds simply because they are Kurds. Baloney: there are Kurdish units within Daesh.
Abu al-Hadi al-Iraqi was the Kurdish leader in Al-Qaeda. During the CIA’s Operation Cyclone against the Soviets, he led Al-Quaeda’s “Kurdish camp”. After the US invasion, he managed the Ashara guest house in Kabul, as al Quaeda’s number three man. Now he is being detained in Guantanamo.
In November, the Islamic Emirate in Iraq (from which would germinate Daesh) released a video entitled “Message to Kurds and the Martyr Operation”. The organization was calling Kurds to join it.
The most famous Kurdish member of Daesh is Mullah Krekar (photo). He is the Emir of the Salafist group, Ansar al-Islam fi Kurdistan. He is a political refugee in Norway. He was imprisoned there on two occasions for praising terrorism. However, in the period that he was officially imprisoned, he climbed on board a special Nato plane to participate in a meeting on 1 June 2014, in Amman. The agenda for this meeting: planning Daesh’s invasion of Iraq . When he returned to his prison life in Norway, he announced his allegiance to the Islamic State. Now he lives in Oslo, a free man.
Crowds filled the streets of the Iraqi Kurdistan capital, rallying ahead of an independence vote this month. While some were waving the flag of Israel, which backs the Kurds’ aspirations, Baghdad says it won’t allow the creation of a “second Israel.”
On Saturday, the city of Erbil saw thousands of protesters turning up at a pro-independence rally, ahead of the scheduled September 25 vote. Colorful Kurdish flags hovered over the crowd as participants danced and cheered at a concert in Shanidar Park, with firecrackers briskly lighting up the sky.
Alongside the Kurdish colors of red, white, yellow, and green, Israeli flags could be seen flying in the crowd.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu buoyed the vote, saying Israel supports the “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state.”
However, Netanyahu’s remarks didn’t appeal to Baghdad, which opposes the Kurdish resolve to establish an independent state.
“We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” Vice President Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday, as cited by AFP.
The Kurdistan regional government must “call off the referendum that is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds,” al-Maliki said.
Earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also warned of a “dangerous” decision on secession, calling it “playing with fire.”
The PM went as far as to say that Baghdad “will intervene militarily” if the Iraqi population is “threatened by the use of force outside the law.”
Washington, too, urged the Kurdish region’s authorities “to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.”
In the meantime, Moscow pinned its hopes on the will of the Kurdish people being conveyed peacefully, with geopolitical, demographic and economic aspects considered, given that “the Kurdish issue stretches far from Iraqi borders and spans neighboring countries.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said“the legitimate aspirations of the Kurds, as of other people, should be implemented within international law.”
The Kurds are known as the “world’s largest number of people without a nation”. There are over 30 million of them scattered around the world, although they live mainly in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. They have used their large numbers and history of being oppressed to justify a demand for independence and statehood. The autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan government in Erbil argues that only a nation with secure borders can guarantee their rights to the Kurds.
However, calls for independence, although most likely to receive support inside Kurdistan, will meet strong opposition in the rest of Iraq and neighbouring countries. Iran, Syria and Turkey will resist any political actions which might bolster and mobilise their own Kurdish minorities to follow similar trajectories. Furthermore, the US will also oppose the creation of an independent Kurdistan, particularly if Baghdad does not approve.
The Kurds have endured years of victimisation and discrimination. During the dispensation of Saddam Hussein they were subjected to Arabisation which imposed cultural assimilation; scores of dissidents died and thousands more were displaced during that period.
On 25 September, the Kurdish people will hold a referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, the objective of which is to seek a mandate to separate from Iraq. The results of the referendum are a foregone conclusion, with polls suggesting that an overwhelming number of Kurds will vote “Yes”. According to the Washington Post, the Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani is assuring everyone that approval will not lead to an immediate declaration of independence, but rather to a two-year or longer process of negotiation with Baghdad over the terms of the divorce, including the borders of the new state.
The oil rich region of Kirkuk lies within Iraqi Kurdistan. This will present a challenge to the negotiation process, as Baghdad will not hand it over easily given its particular riches. The negotiations are going to be tough and lengthy and will probably require a broker; in all likelihood this will be the US, even though Washington has already let it be known that it will support proposals from Baghdad as it is more interested in the stability and development of Iraq as a whole.
Meanwhile, Kurds across the Middle East seem united in their ambition of creating a Greater Kurdistan covering Northern Kurdistan in south-east Turkey; Western Kurdistan, which is part of northern Syria; Southern Kurdistan in the north of Iraq; and Eastern Kurdistan, which is currently in north-west Iran. It is clear that the realisation of a Greater Kurdistan is likely to trigger regional instability as it lies across territories belonging to various independent states.
Nevertheless, the creation of an independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq is likely to increase the political momentum of those Kurds in neighbouring countries. As the war in Syria against Daesh nears an end, Kurds there are readying themselves to receive an “independent state” as a reward for their efforts against the extremists.
There are certain very important political implications to be considered as Iraqi Kurdistan heads for its referendum. Although Turkey enjoys a cordial relationship with Erbil, an independent Kurdistan there might damage relations, not least because the government in Ankara has been battling the proscribed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) for years and has resisted all attempts to promote a Kurdish sociocultural identity inside Turkey, let alone a state. The creation of Kurdistan in Iraq and perhaps in Syria will certainly motivate other Kurdish separatists groups, including the PKK, and may well be used as a political springboard for “bigger things”.
The wars in the Middle East are redrawing the map of the region. Iraq and Syria, for example, will certainly have different borders when the dust settles. The establishment of another nation will create additional instability, adding to an already crowded arms race. What’s more, Syria has been pushing its Sunni citizens toward Idlib province, which suggests that it is destined to become an independent — or at least autonomous — Sunni state.
The Middle East is beginning to disentangle itself from the geopolitical chaos of the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which lumped together and separated people haphazardly, disturbing the centuries-old social fabric and relative cohesion. When the French and British were sharing the spoils and restructuring the Middle East after the First World War, they completely ignored Kurdish aspirations for self-determination. The referendum on an independent Kurdistan carved out of Iraqi territory, at least, is one way that the mistakes of the past look like being redressed.
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