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US Mercenaries, Iraqi Highways and the Mystery of the Never-Ending ISIS Hordes

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 22.10.2017

While the US and European media provided little explanation as to how militants from the self-titled Islamic State (IS) managed to appear, expand and then fight for years against the combined military power of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, it was abundantly clear to many analysts that the IS organization was not only receiving state sponsorship, but it was receiving reinforcements, weapons and supplies from far beyond Syria’s and Iraq’s borders.

Maps of the conflict stretching over the last several years show clear corridors used to reinforce IS positions, leading primarily from Turkey’s southern border and to a lesser extent, from Jordan’s borders.

However, another possible vector may be desert highways in Iraq’s western Anbar province where US military contractors are allegedly to “provide security” as well as build gas stations and rest areas. These highways contributed to the current conflict and still serve as a hotbed for state sponsored terrorism. Whether these US-controlled and improved highways pose a significant threat for a reorganized effort by the US and its regional allies to divide and destroy Iraq and Syria seems all but inevitable.

US Mercenaries “Guarding” Iraqi Highways 

Al Monitor in an April 2017 article titled, “How Iraq is planning to secure key border road,” would claim:

 Due to the imminent threats to the road, which is one of Iraq’s vital economic lines as it connects Basra in the south to Jordan in the west, Iraq commissioned an American company to secure and rebuild the road. The contract also included reconstructing bridges, 36 of which are destroyed.

The article would elaborate, stating:

A security source from the Iraqi intelligence service told Al-Monitor, “The American company will only secure the two roads reaching Terbil from Basra and Baghdad and will build gas stations and rest areas, in addition to building bridges and cordoning off the roads with barbed wires, as per distances that would be determined later.”

Al Monitor would claim that Iraq’s popular mobilization units found themselves unable to oppose the move made by the central government in Baghdad. It would also note that Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades claimed, in opposition to the plan, that:

The road connecting Iraq and Jordan is a strategic gateway allowing the US and forces seeking to control it to tighten their grip on Anbar and the potential Sunni region as per a US-Gulf plan.

One could imagine future potential scenarios including these rebuilt roads, complete with gas stations and rest areas, leading from Jordan and Saudi Arabia and providing an efficient route for future wars waged either directly or by proxy against Iraq. The infiltration of fighters and supplies, for example, would be greatly expedited should the US and its partners decide to shift their efforts along this new axis.

Beyond this more obvious threat comes the fact that US-Jordanian-Saudi influence would be greatly enhanced with stronger logistical lines leading into Iraq’s western regions.

How the US Might Use its New Highways  

The Islamic State’s de facto invasion of Syria and Iraq was a more massive and dramatic replay of an earlier surge of foreign militants into the region, following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

It would be America’s own Combating Terrorism Center at the West Point United States Military Academy in two reports published in 2007 and 2008 (.pdf) respectively that would describe in detail the networks some of Washington’s closest regional allies used to flood post-war Iraq with foreign fighters.

While these fighters indeed attacked US soldiers, what they also did was disrupt a relatively unified resistance movement before plunging Sunni and Shia’a militias into a deadly and costly “civil war.”

Fighters, weapons and cash infiltrated into Iraq from a network that fed fighters from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region first into Turkey, through Syria via the help of many of the senior leadership of anti-government militant groups now fighting  Damascus, and then into Iraq primarily where IS has been based and where the remnants of its militancy remains.

During the more recent conflict, these same networks were utilized successfully until Russia’s intervention in 2015 when these terrorist “ratlines” came under fire by Russian warplanes. The cause and effect of attacking these terrorist ratlines was visible on conflict maps, causing an almost immediate shrinking of IS-occupied territory and a corresponding atrophy of IS fighting capacity.

The Jordanian-Iraqi and Saudi-Iraqi border crossings and the highways running through them represent an alternative means to reorient Washington’s proxy conflict either now or in the near future.

US Already Planning to Weaponize the Project 

Raising further alarm bells should be the New York Times’ May 2017 article, “U.S. Sees a Vital Iraqi Toll Road, but Iran Sees a Threat,” which helps frame the very sort of conflict US policymakers are seeking with this move and the reaction it has already provoked among America’s primary targets in the region, particularly Iran.
The article would claim:

 As part of an American effort to promote economic development in Iraq and secure influence in the country after the fight against the Islamic State subsides, the American government has helped broker a deal between Iraq and Olive Group, a private security company, to establish and secure the country’s first toll highway.

This being Iraq, though, the project has quickly been caught up in geopolitics, sectarianism and tensions between the United States and Iran, which seems determined to sabotage the highway project as an unacceptable projection of American influence right on its doorstep.

The New York Times also helps prepare a narrative so that any attack on American contractors along the highway could easily be blamed on militias linked to Iran, or even on Iran itself. The article states:

Already, Iraqi militia leaders linked to Iran, whose statements are seen as reflective of the views of Tehran, have pledged to resume attacks against American forces if the Trump administration decides to leave troops behind to train the Iraqi military and mount counterterrorism missions, as appears likely. And the militia leaders have specifically singled out the highway project for criticism.

The New York Times ultimately admits that the US is attempting to control the highway specifically to continue its increasingly dangerous proxy war against Tehran. The article also admits that the highways will be entirely controlled by US contractors, including the collection of tolls of which only a portion would be handed over to the Iraqi government. The article also claims other highways, including one leading directly from Saudi Arabia, are being considered.

In essence, these would be terrorist ratlines directly controlled by the United States, leading directly out of the very epicenter of state sponsored terrorism in the region, Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf states and to a lesser but still significant extent, Jordan.

They would be terrorist ratlines difficult for Iraq’s central government or its allies to attack without providing a much welcomed pretext for Washington to directly retaliate against the faction of its choosing.

While the New York Times and US politicians and businessmen involved in the highway deal attempt to portray it as a means of providing peace, stability and economic prosperity for Iraq, a quick audit of US policy in the Middle East should ground those lofty promises in a much more frightening reality.

The scope of this project is nothing short of both a US occupation and a US-administered “safe zone” in which militant groups backed by the US and its regional partners can safely be harbored, and from which they can strike out against Iraq and its neighbors with the full protection of US military force.

Some US policymakers may feel that their failing proxy war against Syria involved a cart-before-the-horse policy in which the creation of US-administered and protected safe zones turned out to be more difficult to implement than initially anticipated, and that in the future, such zones should be created before another round of proxy-hostilities.

No matter what, the US presence and the more-than-certain intentions that underpin it will ensure not peace, stability or prosperity, but another decade of division and strife both in Iraq and beyond. Confounding this project, and those like it, and replacing them with actual projects to fulfill the promises of progress the US is merely hiding behind, will be key to truly moving Iraq and the region forward.

October 22, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Netanyahu lobbies world powers to support Iraqi Kurds’ secession bid

Press TV – October 20, 2017

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.

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

US State Dept cautions Iraqi govt against troop advances in Kurdish territory

RT | October 20, 2017

The US State Department is advising Iraq’s federal authority to limit its military activity in the country’s Kurdish northern region, as it also calls for “all parties to cease all violence” in the wake of violence in the town of Altun Kupri.

On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged the Baghdad government to only make troop movements that were “coordinated with the Kurdistan Regional Government.”

This marks the most specific statement out of the State Department on the situation since Iraq regained control over the provincial capital Kirkuk on Monday, following a popular vote of 92 percent in favor of an independent Kurdistan late last month. Previously, the State Department has stuck to general calls for calm on all sides.

Nauert’s statement also declared that the disputed Kurdish areas remained disputed, despite Iraqi authorities crossing into the region.

“The reassertion of federal authority over disputed areas in no way changes their status – they remain disputed until their status is resolved in accordance with the Iraqi constitution,” the statement read.

According to security sources cited by Reuters, Iraqi troops gained control of the last district in Kirkuk on Friday, taking the oil-producing province from Kurdish Peshmerga fighters after three hours of hostilities.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called the September 25 vote for Kurdish independence illegitimate, and said US policy rejects such unilateral moves.

This week, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters lost large swathes of territory held since 2014 or later, which had been gained during years of war against Islamic State fighters.

October 21, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | 1 Comment

Is War with Iran Now Inevitable?

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • October 17, 2017

With his declaration Friday that the Iran nuclear deal is not in the national interest, President Donald Trump may have put us on the road to war with Iran.

Indeed, it is easier to see the collisions that are coming than to see how we get off this road before the shooting starts.

After “de-certifying” the nuclear agreement, signed by all five permanent members of the Security Council, Trump gave Congress 60 days to reimpose the sanctions that it lifted when Teheran signed.

If Congress does not reimpose those sanctions and kill the deal, Trump threatens to kill it himself.

Why? Did Iran violate the terms of the agreement? Almost no one argues that — not the UN nuclear inspectors, not our NATO allies, not even Trump’s national security team.

Iran shipped all its 20 percent enriched uranium out of the country, shut down most of its centrifuges, and allowed intrusive inspections of all nuclear facilities. Even before the deal, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies said they could find no evidence of an Iranian nuclear bomb program.

Indeed, if Iran wanted a bomb, Iran would have had a bomb.

She remains a non-nuclear-weapons state for a simple reason: Iran’s vital national interests dictate that she remain so.

As the largest Shiite nation with 80 million people, among the most advanced in the Mideast, Iran is predestined to become the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf. But on one condition: She avoid the great war with the United States that Saddam Hussein failed to avoid.

Iran shut down any bomb program it had because it does not want to share Iraq’s fate of being smashed and broken apart into Persians, Azeris, Arabs, Kurds and Baluch, as Iraq was broken apart by the Americans into Sunni, Shiite, Turkmen, Yazidis and Kurds.

Tehran does not want war with us. It is the War Party in Washington and its Middle East allies — Bibi Netanyahu and the Saudi royals — who hunger to have the United States come over and smash Iran.

Thus, the Congressional battle to kill, or not to kill, the Iran nuclear deal shapes up as decisive in the Trump presidency.

Yet, even earlier collisions with Iran may be at hand.

In Syria’s east, U.S.-backed and Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces are about to take Raqqa. But as we are annihilating ISIS in its capital, the Syrian army is driving to capture Deir Ezzor, capital of the province that sits astride the road from Baghdad to Damascus.

Its capture by Bashar Assad’s army would ensure that the road from Baghdad to Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon remains open.

If the U.S. intends to use the SDF to seize the border area, we could find ourselves in a battle with the Syrian army, Shiite militia, the Iranians, and perhaps even the Russians.

Are we up for that?

In Iraq, the national army is moving on oil-rich Kirkuk province and its capital city. The Kurds captured Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled from the ISIS invasion. Why is a U.S.-trained Iraqi army moving against a U.S.-trained Kurdish army?

The Kurdistan Regional Government voted last month to secede. This raised alarms in Turkey and Iran, as well as Baghdad. An independent Kurdistan could serve as a magnet to Kurds in both those countries.

Baghdad’s army is moving on Kirkuk to prevent its amputation from Iraq in any civil war of secession by the Kurds.

Where does Iran stand in all of this?

In the war against ISIS, they were de facto allies. For ISIS, like al-Qaida, is Sunni and hates Shiites as much as it hates Christians. But if the U.S. intends to use the SDF to capture the Iraqi-Syrian border, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia could all be aligned against us.

Are we ready for such a clash?

We Americans are coming face to face with some new realities.

The people who are going to decide the future of the Middle East are the people who live there. And among these people, the future will be determined by those most willing to fight, bleed and die for years and in considerable numbers to realize that future.

We Americans, however, are not going to send another army to occupy another country, as we did Kuwait in 1991, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003.

Bashar Assad, his army and air force backed by Vladimir Putin’s air power, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, and Hezbollah won the Syrian civil war because they were more willing to fight and die to win it. And, truth be told, all had far larger stakes there than did we.

We do not live there. Few Americans are aware of what is going on there. Even fewer care.

Our erstwhile allies in the Middle East naturally want us to fight their 21st-century wars, as the Brits got us to help fight their 20th-century wars.

But Donald Trump was not elected to do that. Or so at least some of us thought.

Coyright 2017 Creators.com.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

PKK presence in Kirkuk amounts to declaration of war, says Iraqi government

Press TV – October 15, 2017

The Iraqi government has accused authorities from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of bringing militants from Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to the disputed oil province of Kirkuk, saying it considered the move as a “declaration of war.”

The National Security Council, headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said in a statement on Sunday that the presence of “fighters not belonging to the regular security forces in Kirkuk” was a “dangerous escalation.”

“It is impossible to remain silent” faced with “a declaration of war towards Iraqis and government forces,” the statement said, adding, “The central government and regular forces will carry out their duty of defending the Iraqi people in all its components including the Kurds, and of defending Iraq’s sovereignty and unity.”

The Iraqi government has said that it will seek to impose its authority over Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

The statement came just hours before the expiry of a deadline for Kurdish peshmerga fighters to withdraw from strategic areas.

Kurdish troops have already rejected a call from the Iraqi government forces to withdraw from a strategic location in Kirkuk’s southern region. Early on Sunday, a Kurdish security official announced that Peshmerga fighters had not withdrawn from a key junction south of of Kirkuk.

Earlier in the day, tens of thousands of Peshmerga forces were deployed to Kirkuk at the request of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

Peshmerga forces moved into Kirkuk in 2014, when the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group launched an offensive across Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds deny presence of PKK militants

On Sunday, Kurdish Iraqi officials denied that any PKK militants were present in Kirkuk.

“There are no PKK forces in Kirkuk, but there are some volunteers who sympathizes with the PKK,” said General Jabar Yawer, the secretary general of the Peshmerga ministry.

Tensions have been simmering between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG over a recent controversial referendum on the secession of the region.

The plebiscite took place on September 25, drawing strong objection from Baghdad. Iraq’s neighbors and the international community also voiced concern about the repercussions of the vote, which was only supported by Israel.

Meanwhile, Kurdish leaders have dismissed the Iraqi government’s demand that the KRG annul the results of last month’s independence referendum.

October 15, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 2 Comments

The proxy-war against Iran is under way in Iraq and has just entered a new phase

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | October 14, 20017

The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia have yet to demonstrate that they have the “courage” to attack Iran directly and it is still conventional wisdom among most observers that none of Iran’s self-defined adversaries will ever develop an appetite for a hot war on Iranian soil any time soon.

One of the reasons for this reticence to attack Iran directly, especially where more moderate members of the Pentagon are concerned, is that such an operation would be suicide from a military-strategic point of view. Ultimately, the US would likely lose any war on Iranian soil that was not a nuclear war. The latter option would of course be a cataclysmic disaster for the planet.

This is one of the reasons that the US continues to construct a totally nonfactual narrative about “Iranian terrorism”. Because no such thing exists (on the contrary Iran both fights and is a victim of Takrifi jihadism), the US along with Israel continues to peddle the narrative that the Lebanese party Hezbollah is an ‘Iranian terrorist group’, even though Hezbollah’s latest accomplishment has been destroying ISIS and al-Qaeda in Lebanon while continuing to help the secular Syrian government fight jihadists.

While many pundits highlight the fact that if a US politician articulates the name of any group with an Arabic or Farsi name, it is easy to pass off such a group as a terrorist organisation, this simplistic explanation for Washington’s continued attacks on Hezbollah as an “Iranian terrorist group”, in spite of the fact that Hezbollah is a Lebanese political party and security force, actually bears a far more sinister explanation.

Because many in the US and Israel are in fact afraid of taking on Iran directly, they are actively working to undermine Iran by attacking its smaller allies. The continual demonisation of Hezbollah is clearly defined by the US as an attempt to weaken the appeal of Hezbollah in Lebanon, in order to convince Lebanese Shi’a Muslims to withdraw electoral and moral support for the party, thus eliminating the power of an Iran friendly group in the heart of the Levant.

This is not speculation or conjecture, but a reference to an important US policy document, drafted as a ‘gift’ for Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996. The document known as “A Clean Break” was authored by the future Chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee in the Bush administration, Richard Perle. The document was meant to provide guidance for the future of US-Israeli policies in the Middle East.

At the time, it was reportedly dismissed by Neyanyahu as being too extreme, even by Israeli standards, but since 9/11, many of the proposals have either been executed or attempted, including regime change in Iraq and Syria, aggression against Shi’a factions in Lebanon and an increasingly militant approach to Palestine.

Perle’s proposals for Hezbollah make for a reading that is one part frightening and another part laughable. Perle suggests a full-scale campaign to weaken and demonise Hezbollah, something which has clearly failed as Hezbollah’s popularity, even among Christians and Sunnis has only risen since the 1990s, as many Lebanese see Hezbollah as an insurance policy against both Israeli aggression as well as against jihadist terrorism of the ISIS and al-Qaeda variety. The laughable part is when Perle suggests that the Sunni Hashemite Jordanian regime could somehow fill the void left by a would-be weakened Hezbollah, because of alleged latent sentimental attachments among Levantine Shi’as towards the Hashemite dynasty. Such an enlargement would have been far flung even in the 1920s and in 2017, the following segment from “A Clean Break” reads like a bad script to a would-be sequel to Lawrence of Arabia.

“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria’s regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq. This has triggered a Jordanian-Syrian rivalry to which Asad has responded by stepping up efforts to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom, including using infiltrations. Syria recently signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam.

But Syria enters this conflict with potential weaknesses: Damascus is too preoccupied with dealing with the threatened new regional equation to permit distractions of the Lebanese flank. And Damascus fears that the ‘natural axis’ with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria’s territorial integrity.

Since Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq, including such measures as: visiting Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States, of the new Netanyahu government; supporting King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion; encouraging — through influence in the U.S. business community — investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan’s economy away from dependence on Iraq; and diverting Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon.

Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.

King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah (sic), Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein”.

Of the many things an overzealous Richard Perle got wrong. The most staggering are as follows:

–Underestimating the non-sectarian popularity of the Ba’athist government in Syria

–Not accounting for the Shi’a majority in Iraq who would be politically unleashed in a post-Saddam society

–Overestimating the appeal of the hereditary Jordanian regime to Arabs living in republican states

–Overestimating Jordan’s desire to be anything more than a parking lot for western military hardware

Of course, failing to realise Turkey’s contemporary pivot away from NATO could not have reasonably been foreseen in 1996, but the statements on Turkey still make for perplexing reading with the benefit of  hindsight.

Fast forward to the present day when jihad has failed in Syria and Iraq, Hezbollah is more popular than ever in Lebanon (while its opponents are in many ways weaker than ever) and where Iraq has a Shi’a dominated government with openly warm relations with Iran.

Iraq’s present geo-political position is that of the only country in the world where the two most influential countries inside its borders are the United States and Iran. To put this in perspective, imagine a country where the two most influential powers, each with its own troops working with various factions of such a state’s army, were Japan and North Korea.

But this is the awkward reality of modern Iraq, a country whose armed forces coordinate airstrikes with the USA and where in other parts of the country, on the same day, members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, train Iraqi troops and Popular Mobilization Units  to fight terrorism. What’s more is that Iraq has recently approached Iran to sign a wide ranging military security pact. All the while, the US maintains multiple military bases in Iraq, in addition to an embassy in Baghdad that is better described as a military fortress.

If the US was intent on ‘containing’ Iran at all costs or even maintaining a power in the Middle East with a track record of not being afraid of Iran, the US could have simply continued to fund and arm Saddam Hussein. In rejecting Saddam and engaging in illegal regime change, the US severely underestimated the potential of a post-Ba’athist Iraq not to devolve into a battle ground of identity politics, one in which sheer mathematics would dictate more pro-Iranian factions than any other.

Now, the US is stuck in the rut that is contemporary Iraq. On the one hand, Iraq has been a major material investment for the US. This is one of the leading explanations for why the US condemned the recent Kurdish secession referendum in northern Iraq. Where Iraqi Kurds were once the go-to faction in Iraq for the US to undermine the old Ba’athist government and since 2003, a faction that the US exploited to promote a so-called ‘Iraqi success story’, today, the US wants to have its Kurdish cake and eat it too. In other words, while the US does not intend to publicly defame Iraqi Kurds, they also seek to preserve the unity of their investment called Iraq.

At least, this is what the US says in public, but privately, this may have already changed. Kurdish secessionists in Iraq decided to include the oil rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk on the map of a would-be Kurdish state, as part of the widely condemned secession referendum process. This has infuriated the Arab and Turkomen population of Kirkuk who see Kurds as attempting to annex a city which is not part of the existing autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

Over the last 24 hours reports from Kirkuk detailing intense fighting between the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga militia have been flowing in, albeit under the radar due to the media focusing more acutely on Donald Trump’s anti-Iran speech. While most Arab sources describe the battles as being fought between Iraqi Troops and Peshmerga, Kurdish outlets speak of clashes between a “foreign backed Iraqi army” along with Shi’a forces versus Peshmerga.

Thus one sees that generally pro-western and clearly pro-Israel Kurdish writers are proliferating a narrative where a foreign power, meaning Iran, is backing Shi’a Iraqis in a fight against Kurds.

The clear intention is to send the world a false message that the current fight in Kirkuk is an Iranian proxy battle against ‘wholesome Iraqi Kurds’. In reality, when reading between the lines, even in Kurdish propaganda outlets, one realises that the majority Shi’a Iraq army, the Sunni Arabs and Sunni Turkomen of Kirkuk, are all united behind the Iraqi flag against the Kurdish flag. In this sense, a battle which Kurds are trying to paint as a proxy sectarian war, is actually a rare example of Iraqi unity between Arabs and Turkomen, Shi’a and Sunni.

Thus, one sees the blueprint as well as the folly of the US and Israel’s real proxy war against Iran. Having failed in Syria and Lebanon, Iraq is the place where anti-Iranian forces will continue and likely ramp up their long-term anti-Tehran proxy war.

Whereas ISIS failed to destroy Iraq and also failed to limit Iranian influence on Iraq, the Kurds in Iraq will likely be the next proxy force used to attempt and draw Iran into a new conflict in Iraq. In the coming weeks and months, the headlines in fake news outlets warning of an ‘Iran/Hezbollah plot to take over Syria’, will likely be replaced with stories of ‘Iranian terrorists committing atrocities against Iraqi Kurds’. Of course, the more this strategy fails on the battle field, the more absurd the fake news stories will get, just as fake stories about Syrian chemical weapons tend to appear every time Damascus scores a substantial victory against al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The problem with the new plan for more proxy wars with Iran in Iraq, is that in the process, many Iraqi Arabs, as well as Iraqi Turkomen, may revive a pan-Iraqi identity in the process. Furthermore, if pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq begin fighting for the rights of Sunni Arabs and Turkomen against Kurds, it could actually help to reconcile Iraqi Sunnis with Iraqi Shi’as.

This is the real game-plan against Iran and while it is a dangerous one, it ultimately will not be an effective one. In many ways, it may even be less effective than the attempt to use ISIS and other Takfiri groups to draw Iran into a losing war in the Arab world. Here, the opposite has happened, Iran has worked with legal state partners to cooperate and ultimately secure victory against Takfiri jihadists.

When and if the conflicts in Iraq finally end, the only question remaining will be: What to do with the deeply unpopular US bases in Iraq? There are only two options:

1. Perpetual stalemate

2. A 1975 Vietnam style withdrawal

The United States plans to end Iranian power in Iraq, but it is becoming increasingly likely that Iraq will instead be the graveyard of US hegemony. In many ways, it already is.

October 14, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kurdistan Sends Peshmerga Troops to Kirkuk Amid ‘Threats’ by Iraqi Army

Sputnik – 13.10.2017

According to the region’s vice president Kosrat Rasul, Iraqi Kurdistan will send 6,000 Peshmerga troops to the province of Kirkuk due to alleged plans by the Iraqi government to launch an offensive to regain control over the area.

“There are threats by the Iraqi Army that has deployed forces near Kirkuk supposedly to attack Kirkuk. But I don’t believe it will be easy for them to do that,” Rasul was quoted as saying by the Rudaw broadcaster.

The Iraqi Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) accused Baghdad of preparing a large-scale military operation to restore control over the oil rich Kirkuk province, which has been de-facto under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia for three years. On the following day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi refuted the claims.

The Iraqi Army’s military operation south of the Kirkuk province is not directed against the Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary forces, an aide to the governor of the disputed province, Abdurrahman Talabani, said.

The Kirkuk province is not officially included in Iraqi Kurdistan, but it is in fact partially controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga detachments. On the eve of the independence referendum, the Kurds intensified the concentration of their forces in Kirkuk. Earlier Baghdad dismissed the governor of Kirkuk and decided to deploy troops to the province.

October 13, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah offers incredibly balanced view on Kurdish referendum

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | October 1, 2017

The leader of the Lebanese party Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has articulated a defence of territorial unity across the Arab world while also calling for respecting the human rights of all non-Arab minorities across the region. In a speech which invoked the ideals anti-imperialist Arab nationalism, Nasrallah made it clear that the opposition to the recent referendum by Kurds in Northern Iraq among those calling for Arab unity, is based on considerations regarding political survival and one that rejects ethno-nationalism in all its forms.

Hezbollah’s official news outlet Al-Manar reports the following (Nasrallah’s quotes are indicated by bold lettering)

“Following the defeat of ISIL, the region is before a dangerous scheme of division, Sayyed Nasrallah said, warning that such scheme is represented in the secession of Kurdistan region in Iraq.

“We say to our beloved Kurds that the issue is not about deciding your fate, but about dividing the region according to sectarian and ethnic belonging.”

The Lebanese resistance leader called on people of the region to confront such scheme which echoes the “New Middle East”, which was plotted by former US president George W. Bush.

“The people of this region bear responsibility of confronting this scheme of division.”

His eminence also called on people of the region to refrain from resorting to ethnic bias.

“There should not be ethnic bias between Arabs, Kurds or Iranians, the problem is not with Kurds, it’s political one.”

Sayyed Nasrallah in this context warned that wars in the region are in favor of ‘Israel’ and US along with the latter’s arms companies”.

This view which embraces an all encompassing anti-imperialist Arab nationalism, one that rejects the ethno-nationalism of any one group, is consistent with the traditions of the great secular Arab nationalists movements including Ba’athism, Nasserism and Gaddafi’s Third International Theory. While Hezbollah is a religious party, it is careful to reject faith based sectarianism let alone ethno-nationalism.

As I wrote yesterday in The Duran,

“The 20th century witnessed the birth of Arab nationalism, a series of movements and political parties which aimed to restore independence and unity in the Arab world after centuries of Ottoman rule, as well as more recent decades of western imperialist occupation and aggression.

Arab nationalists were anti-tribal, progressive and anti-sectarian. Arab nationalists sought to retain the traditional harmony in which Arab Muslims lived with one another as well as with their Christian and Jewish neighbours. Likewise, Arab nationalist parties did not favour discrimination against ethnic minorities. In many cases, Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians welcomed Arab nationalism as a progressive respite against late Ottoman realities that were increasingly ethnocentric and genocidal.

The progressive realities of Arab nationalism contrast with the aggression of western imperialism, the backwardness of Wahhabism, the settler colonialism of Zionism and the ethno-nationalism of present day Kurdish secessionists.

In this sense, while the Kurds have spun a narrative that they are oppressed freedom fighters, the reality is rather different. Iraqi Kurds are attempting to break apart the unity of the Arab world and in so doing, threatening the survival of what remains of the Arab nationalist ideal. If the Kurds got their way, many Arabs and other minorities such as Turkomen would find themselves becoming refugees in their own country as a result of Kurdish ethno-nationalism. By contrast, in the modern Arab world, Kurds are not threatened. One could say that they are fact, in a privileged position.

Furthermore, with many Arab nationalist governments being the victims of neo-imperialism from the west, Wahhabi terrorism from Saudi Arabia and its allies, in addition to Israel occupation and intimation, one can easily see why Arab states like Iraq have clearly stated their opposition to a further dagger in the heart of the Arab world”.

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

CrossTalk: Kurdish Puzzle

RT | September 29, 2017

The modern international order centers on two basic principles – the sanctity of sovereign borders and self-determination. In this regard the Kurdish question is particularly vexing and even dangerous. Will some 30 million Kurds ever have either?

CrossTalking with Mohammad Marandi, Martin Jay, and Hiwa Osman.

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

Debunking the myth of Islamic State’s presence in Af-Pak

By Nauman Sadiq – Blacklisted News – September 28, 2017

Recently, the Islamic State’s purported “terror franchises” in Afghanistan and Pakistan have claimed a spate of bombings against the Shi’a and Barelvi Muslims who are regarded as heretics by Takfiris. But to contend that the Islamic State is responsible for suicide blasts in Pakistan and Afghanistan is to declare that the Taliban are responsible for the sectarian war in Syria and Iraq.

Both are localized militant outfits and the Islamic State without its Baathist command structure and superior weaponry is just another ragtag, regional militant outfit. The distinction between the Taliban and the Islamic State lies in the fact that the Taliban follow Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam which is a sect native to South Asia and the jihadists of the Islamic State mostly belong to Wahhabi denomination.

Secondly, and more importantly, the insurgency in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a Pashtun uprising which is an ethnic group native to Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, while the bulk of the Islamic State’s jihadists is comprised of Arab militants of Syria and Iraq.

The so-called “Khorasan Province” of the Islamic State in the Af-Pak region is nothing more than an alliance of several breakaway factions of the Taliban and a few other inconsequential local militant outfits that have adopted the name “Islamic State” to enhance their prestige, but that don’t have any organizational and operations association, whatsoever, with the Islamic State proper in Syria and Iraq.

Conflating the Islamic State either with Al-Qaeda, with the Taliban or with myriads of ragtag, local militant groups is a deliberate deception intended to mislead public opinion in order to exaggerate the threat posed by the Islamic State which serves the scaremongering agenda of security establishments.

Regardless, the only difference between the Afghan jihad back in the ‘80s that spawned Islamic jihadists such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda for the first time in history and the Libyan and Syrian civil wars, 2011-onward, is that the Afghan jihad was an overt jihad: back then, the Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, used to openly brag that the CIA provides all those AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and stingers to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, which then distributes those deadly weapons amongst the Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” to combat the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

After the 9/11 tragedy, however, the Western political establishments and corporate media have become a lot more circumspect, therefore this time around they have waged covert jihads against the Arab-nationalist Gaddafi regime in Libya and the anti-Zionist Assad regime in Syria, in which Islamic jihadists (aka terrorists) have been sold as “moderate rebels” with secular and nationalist ambitions to the Western audience.

Since the regime change objective in those hapless countries went against the mainstream narrative of ostensibly fighting a war against terrorism, therefore the Western political establishments and the mainstream media are now trying to muddle the reality by offering color-coded schemes to identify myriads of militant and terrorist outfits operating in Syria: such as the red militants of the Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front which the Western powers want to eliminate; the yellow Islamic jihadists, like Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, with whom the Western powers can collaborate under desperate circumstances; and the green militants of the Free Syria Army (FSA) and a few other inconsequential outfits which together comprise the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition.

If we were to draw parallels between the Soviet-Afghan jihad during the ‘80s and the Syrian civil war of today, the Western powers used the training camps located in the Af-Pak border regions to train and arm Afghan “Mujahideen” against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Similarly, the training camps located in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan are being used to provide training and weapons to Sunni Arab militants to battle the Shi’a-dominated Syrian regime with the collaboration of Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies.

During the Afghan jihad, it is a known historical fact that the bulk of the so-called “freedom fighters” was comprised of Pashtun Islamic jihadists, such as the factions of Jalaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf and scores of other militant outfits, some of which later coalesced together to form the Taliban movement.

Similarly, in Syria, the majority of the so-called “moderate rebels” is comprised of Sunni Arab jihadists, such as Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State and myriads of other militant groups, including a small portion of defected Syrian soldiers who go by the name of Free Syria Army (FSA).

Moreover, apart from Pashtun Islamic jihadists, various factions of the Northern Alliance of Tajiks and Uzbeks constituted the relatively “moderate” segment of the Afghan rebellion, though those “moderate” warlords, like Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abul Rashid Dostum, were more ethnic and tribal in character than secular or nationalist, as such.

Similarly, the Kurds of the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” can be compared to the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. The socialist PYD/YPG Kurds of Syria, however, were allied with the Baathist regime against the Sunni Arab jihadists for the first three years of the Syrian civil war, i.e. from August 2011 to August 2014.

At the behest of American stooge in Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, the Syrian Kurds have switched sides in the last three years after the United States policy reversal and declaration of war against one faction of the Syrian opposition, the Islamic State, when the latter overstepped its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in June 2014, from where the US troops had withdrawn only a couple of years previously in December 2011.

Regarding the creation and composition of the Islamic State, apart from training and arms which have been provided to Syrian militants in the training camps located in the Turkish and Jordanian border regions adjacent to Syria by the CIA in collaboration with Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies, another factor that has contributed to the stellar success of the Islamic State is that its top cadres are comprised of former Baathist military and intelligence officers from the Saddam era.

According to reports, hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top and mid-tier command structure of the Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy. The only feature that differentiates Islamic State from all other insurgent groups is its command structure which is comprised of professional ex-Baathists and its state-of-the-art weaponry that has been provided to all the Sunni Arab militant outfits fighting in Syria by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf states.

Moreover, it is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology plays an important role in battle, and well-informed readers must also be aware that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists these days has been directly inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in battle.

Looking at the Islamic State’s astounding gains in Syria and Iraq in 2014, a question arises, where do its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that are imperative not only for hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding large swathes of territory?

According to a revelatory December 2013 news report [1] from The National newspaper affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian opposition: it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provides machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who have completed their training in the training camps located at the border regions of Jordan.

Once those militants cross over to Daraa and Quneitra in southern Syria from the Jordan-Syria border, then those Toyota pick-up trucks can easily travel all the way to Raqqa and Deir al-Zor and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq.

Moreover, it is clearly spelled out in the report that Syrian militants get arms and training through a secret command center based in the intelligence headquarters’ building in Amman, Jordan, that has been staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations, Israel and the Gulf Arab States to wage a covert war against the government in Syria.

Finally, unlike al Qaeda, which is a transnational terrorist organization that generally employs anti-colonial and anti-West rhetoric to draw funds and followers, the Islamic State and the majority of Sunni Arab militant groups fighting in Syria are basically anti-Shi’a sectarian outfits. By the designation “terrorism” it is generally implied and understood that an organization which has the intentions and capability of carrying out acts of terrorism on the Western soil.

Although the Islamic State has carried out a few acts of terrorism against the Western countries, such as the high profile Paris, Brussels and Manchester attacks, but if we look at the pattern of its subversive activities, especially in the Middle East, it generally targets the Shi’a Muslims in Syria and Iraq. A few acts of terrorism that it has carried out in the Gulf Arab states were also directed against the Shi’a Muslims in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia and Shi’a mosques in Yemen and Kuwait.

Sources and links:

[1] Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command center in Amman:

http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/syrian-rebels-get-arms-and-advice-through-secret-command-centre-in-amman

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US-Israeli Plot to Establish ‘Barzani State’ in Iraqi Kurdistan Doomed to Failure

Al-Manar | September 28, 2017

Due to numerous reasons, the Middle East continues to witness the most disturbed geopolitical conditions in the entire world. When political analysts and thinkers scrutinize the region’s map they can simply and clearly realize the intersection of the civilizational, anthropological, and geopolitical givens, which cause continuous changes. The Kurdish endeavor to establish an ‘independent’ state in northern Iraq exacerbates the overall complicated image of the whole area. However, could the Kurdish ‘dream’ come true regardless of all the surrounding factors?

Iraqi Kurdistan authorities held a so-called ‘independence’ (separation) referendum on Monday aimed at establishing a Kurdish state.

According to the freshly announced results, more than 92 percent of Iraqi Kurds voted for the separation. Electoral commission officials told a news conference in the regional capital Arbil that 92.73 percent of the 3,305,925 people who cast ballots voted “yes” in Monday’s referendum, which had a turnout of 72.61 percent.

Iraqi Kurdistan

It is a northern area in Iraq, which comprises around 41,710 square kilometers and has a population of 4 million. It has borders with Iran (to the east), Syria (to the west), Turkey (to the north) and the rest of the Iraqi provinces (to the south). So, it is a closed area that can never economically interact with the world without concluding pacts with the neighboring countries.

Economic Facts

According to economic experts, Iraqi Kurdistan achieves an annual oil revenue which approaches $11bn, adding that this cannot be sufficient to pay the employees’ salaries and establish a well-built state in the future.

“The Kurdish authorities suffer from a serious financial crisis.”

Furthermore, Kirkuk city which comprises 85% of the oil production will not be part of the autonomous area as the central government in Baghdad is not going to let the Kurdish authorities control it.

Although several international oil firms have signed contracts with the Kurdish authorities to invest in this vital field, the oil revenues will be unable to match the economic needs of the state.

Political Scene

Despite the clear US-Israeli support to the Kurdish leader Massoud Al-Barzani to establish a state in northern Iraq, the political conditions in Kurdistan indicate that the expected losses of the ‘independence’ will lead to several alterations in the domestic scene, which threatens the entire scheme of Al-Barzani.

The Iranian and Turkish opposition to the Kurdish ‘state’ represents a milestone political alliance which unifies the religious components in the area in face of the US-led plot to cause partition in Iraq and all the regional countries.

Furthermore, the US administration will no longer be able to keep its strong ties with Turkey, which is threatened with a similar scenario carried out by its own Kurds, while backing the Kurdish scheme. This is expected to push the Turks into intensifying their coordination and enhancing relations with Iran and all its axis in the Middle East and reducing those with the United States and its allies, including the Zionist entity.

In brief, the Kurdish ‘state’ is a closed area which can never move economically, politically and militarily without the aid of its neighbors.

The US-Israeli attempt to siege the victories achieved by the axis-of-resistance in the area is exposed, and the counter plans to frustrate the mentioned scheme and prepare for further victories over the vicious American  policies are ready to be implemented.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Referendum Blues: The Issue of an Independent Kurdistan

By Dr Can Erimtan | 21st Century Wire | September 26, 2017

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez) and his Justice and Development Party (or AKP) have been steering the state founded by Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] (1881-1938) into distinctly Islamic waters for quite some time now… and as Turkey houses the largest percentage of Kurds in the region (14.7 million according to the CIA), solving Turkey’s Kurdish issue had been part and parcel of the AKP’s policy of Sunnification.

The Prez and his AKP henchmen had namely devised a plan to transform the country into a nation of believers, firmly dedicated to Sunni Islam and moving away from Turkish nationalism.

A Nation of Muslim Immigrants versus an independent Kurdistan

But the Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani now seems to have thrown a spanner in the works, as he told the international press in 2014 that “We [referring to the Kurdish population of Iraq living in the north of the country] will hold a referendum in [the KRG or Kurdish Regional Government] and we will respect and be bound by the decision of our people and hope that others will do likewise.” In this way, one of Turkey’s deepest fears is finally about to become a reality now – the formation of an independent nation state called Kurdistan in the wake of a popular referendum to be held on Monday, 25 September 2017. Somewhat fortunate for Ankara, though, not quite on Turkish soil, but nevertheless directly adjacent to Turkey’s south-eastern region, which many Kurds as well as their sympathisers refer to as Northern Kurdistan these days. And thus, AKP-led Ankara is now up in arms as the rather natural expectation is that a so-called domino effect will take place and that Turkey’s Kurds might very well want to join their southern brethren in an independent nation state possessing underground hydrocarbon reserves or a coveted natural source of income, if you will.

The Turkish nation state established by, Mustafa Kemal, and his followers developed its own brand of nationalism, its own brand of Turkish nationalism which was meant to transform the ethnically diverse inhabitants of Anatolia and Eastern Thrace into a homogeneous body of Turks (or Turkish citizens). Throughout most of its existence, the ideological construct of Turkish nationalism adhered to the politcal precepts of the state carrying the name Kemalism, in reference to the nation state’s founding father and, as I explained nearly four years ago: “the idea of the Anatolian population as a Turkish entity was first proposed as early as 1922, the year prior to the official proclamation of the republic. And in 1924, the first Turkish constitution proclaimed that the ‘name Turk, as a political term, shall be understood to include all citizens of the Turkish Republic, without distinction of, or reference to, race or religion.’ A policy of ‘Turkification’ carried out in the first decades of the republican existence has meant that these various ethnic subgroups have in time merged with the Turkish mainstream.” This Kemalist exercise in social engineering worked well for the majority of ‘Turks,’ whose ethnic identities became submerged in a superstructure of Turkishness that came to replace the previously employed social construct of Ottomanism, that had been in place in the period 1876-1918. The only notable exception to this narrative were the Kurds, whose tribal organisation at the fringes of both the Ottoman and Turkish state structures basically meant that they were able to continue their lives beyond the strictures of the state and its bureaucratic framework and control.

Prior to the foundation of the Republic in 1923, “Anatolia was . . . home to ethnically heterogeneous Muslim groups: in addition to a large majority of Turkish Muslims, there were Kurds, Arabs, Lazes, Muslim Georgians, Greek-speaking Muslims, Albanians, Macedonian Muslims, Pomaks, Serbian Muslims, Bosnian Muslims, Tatars, Circassians, Abkhazians and Dagestanis among others. Prior to the formulation of Turkish nationalism as an ideological binding-force, the diverse ethnic groups in Anatolia were united by their common identity as Muslims and their allegiance to the Ottoman Caliphate, abolished in 1924 . . . Anatolia has always been home to a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups and sub-groups, and today, the makeup Turkey’s population is the result of Ottoman government policies carried out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These policies were aimed at transforming Anatolia (the heartland of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic’s geo-body, using Thongchai Winichakul’s coinage denoting the territory of a nation as expressed on a map and inscribed on the people’s consciousness) into a Muslim homeland where refugees from the Russian Empire and the Balkans were settled.” And in the 21st century, the Prez and his AKP henchmen are bent to return Turkey’s state-of-affairs to this pre-nationalist reality, dismantling “the nation state Turkey into an Anatolian federation of Muslim ethnicities,” beholden to the Prophet’s example, the strictures of the Shariah and possibly even to a revived Caliphate. As a result, the expectation was that the Prez and his henchmen would be able “to unite and pacify the country as a nation of believers, firmly dedicated to Sunni Islam able to supersede mere ethnic or national ties and solidarity.” And in this way, the issues of Turkish and Kurdish nationalism that had in the Kemalist past (1923-2002) caused major unrest in the country would have been replaced by the common cause of Islam and Muslim solidarity. But events in the real world were such that developments in neighbouring Syria and Iraq have led to a strengthened sense of Kurdish nationalism, not just in Turkey. First in northern Iraq where the KRG emerged on the scene in the aftermath of the first and second Gulf Wars led by Bush, Senior and Junior respectively. As well as in Syria where the “three autonomous cantons of Kobani, Afrin, and Cizre, making up the district of Rojava, are under the control of the PYD (or the Kurdish Democratic Union Party) that is arguably attempting to put into practice precepts and ideas of ‘libertarian municipalism’ developed by the libertarian socialist thinker Murray Bookchin (1921-2006).” This last aspect is particularly troubling for Turkey, as its homegrown Kurdish terror group PKK (or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) equally espouses these ideals which were popularised by its imprisoned leader Abdullah Öçalan, thereby attesting to the organic ties between the PKK and the PYD, and its military wings the YPG (People’s Protection Units) and YPJ (Women’s Protection Units).

And finally, there is also a notable Kurdish presence in Iran, supporting its own separatist terror group, known as PJAK and which Turkey also sees as being organically linked to the PKK.

The Spectre of a Greater Kurdistan: 25 September 2017

The fact that the Kurds, arguably much like the Palestinians or even the Rohingya, are a social group consisting of Muslims that lack a proper homeland or nation state means that they can easily garner major support around the world, particularly in the West where the cult of the underdog has transformed the Kurds into a perennial favourite amongst human rights’ supporters all around. And as such, the Kurds and the goal of an independent Kurdistan have now also found major backers in the somewhat unlikely duo of Israel and Saudi Arabia, as I explained in the summer of 2015.

The spectre of “an independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq could very well be the opening move for redrawing the mapped heritage of Sykes-Picot by means of consolidating Kurdish unity – stretching from Syria in the West (Rojava), over Turkey in the North (South-Eastern Anatolia) and Iraq in the South (KRG) to Iran in the East (Rojhilate Kurdistane).” As such, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York City (19 – 25 September 2017), Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaferi, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu got together to discuss this thorny issue (20 September 2017)…  even managing to publish a joint communiqué afterwards: “In the meeting, the three Ministers, reaffirmed their strong commitment to the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq, welcomed the recent liberation of the Nineveh Governorate, which constituted a major victory against DEASH [or the Islamic State or ISIS]… acknowledged the perseverance, commitment and resolve of the people of Iraq as a whole in fighting DEASH . . .  . . . Expressed their concern that the planned referendum by the KRG, which is scheduled for September 25, 2017, puts Iraq’s hard-earned gains against DEASH under great risk, [f]urther expressed their concern that the planned KRG referendum is unconstitutional and runs the risk of provoking new conflicts in the region, that will prove difficult to contain.” As a result, the Kurds managed to do the impossible – to unite the governments of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Or, as put by the communiqué: the assembled foreign ministers “… registered their unequivocal opposition to the referendum, decided to urge the leadership of the KRG to refrain from holding the referendum, emphasized that the referendum will not be beneficial for the Kurds and [the] KRG, [and a]greed, in this regard, to consider taking counter-measures in coordination,” adding that there is a “need for concerted international efforts to convince the KRG on calling off the referendum,“ while renewing “their call on the international community to remain engaged on the issue.“

Turkish Reactions: War in the Offing?!??

With the fateful date fast approaching, and the Prez also having had his last minute tête-à-tête with the current Leader of the Free World in New York City (21 September 2017), while his proxy the hapless PM Binali Yıldırım spoke to the Turkish press invoking the Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923) in his argumentation against the possible outcome of the upcoming referendum (22 September 1922): “This referendum is an issue of Turkey’s national security. Turkey is determined to use its natural rights originating from international and bilateral conventions and will not hesitate in this.” Hapless Yıldırım referred particularly to articles 3 and 16 of the cited document.

The Lausanne Treaty basically functions as the Turkish Republic’s founding document in the aftermath of the Great War (1914-18), the Turkish War of Independence (1919-22) and the abolition of the Ottoman Sultanate (1922). Its third article holds that the “Turkish and British Governments reciprocally undertake that . . . no military or other movement shall take place which might modify in any way the present state of the territories“ of the Republic of Turkey and Iraq, which was then known as the Kingdom of Iraq under British Administration (1920-32) or simply a British protectorate under the sway of Westminster and nominally ruled by George V (1910-36). Article 16, on the other hand, simply clarifies that “Turkey hereby renounces all rights and title whatsoever over or respecting the territories outside the frontiers laid down in the present Treaty,“ which is basically quite beyond the present scope of Turkey’s foreign policy. But Yıldırım citing the article clearly signifies that Turkey’s Kurds should not harbour any desires of joining their southern ethnic brethren, given the finality of Turkey’s borders. The fact that Yıldırım, representing his boss and the AKP establishment, is now quoting Lausanne to sway the Iraqi Kurds from holding a referendum indicates that AKP-led Ankara is really grasping at straws. Turkish Islamists and the AKP nomenklatura, in particular, have in the past always attacked the Treaty of Lausanne as a document of surrender, signing the death of the Ottoman enterprise and forcing Turkey to renege on much-coveted territories. In fact, but last year the Prez himself referred to the Kemalist ‘National Pact’ or Misak-ı Millî (originally drafted by Mustafa Kemal during the Erzurum Congress, 23 July-5 August 1919, and accepted by the last Ottoman parliament on 28 January 1920) to argue that Aleppo, Kerkük and Mosul are “ours” (23 October 2016) – areas also inhabited by Iraqi Turkmen as well as harbouring underground hydrocarbon reserves.

And now, with the hours counting down and everyone’s nerves on end, “the Turkish government will seek a mandate from the Parliament [or TBMM, in acronymized Turkish] to send troops to Iraq and Syria after consecutive security meetings where measures to be taken against the Erbil administration have been decided. The Turkish Parliament is set to hold an extraordinary session on Sept 23 to vote on a mandate that permits the government to deploy troops to its southern neighboring countries, Iraq and Syria, just two days before the scheduled referendum to be held by the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),“ as reported by the Turkish press.

As it happens, Turkey’s National Security Council, which was supposed to convene on Wednesday, 27 September 2017, was also been brought forward to coincide with the extraordinary parliamentary session. Tayyip Erdoğan told the Turkish press on Friday (22 September) that “[w]e will initiate another step in conjunction [with the already agreed upon measures]. This step will consist of deciding upon what kind of sanctions will be imposed, we will discuss all these matters in great detail during the National Security Council meeting. It would not be right for me to say anything about that now. The timing of the sanctions, what the road map will be like, all these things will be discussed in the National Security Council meeting and if necessary in the Council of Ministers meeting, and our government shall announce the decisions following the Council of Ministers meeting.” As it turns out, when it comes to the Kurds, the post-Kemalist state (2002-) turns out to be as firm and ruthless as its Kemalist predecessor (1923-2002).

The extraordinary parliamentary session on Saturday approved a motion to extend a mandate permitting the AKP government to deploy its armed forces (or TSK, in acronymized Turkish) to Iraq and Syria for another year. In spite of the extreme political polarisation present in post-Kemalist Turkey, the said motion received the approval of a large majority in the TBMM with deputies from the main opposition CHP (or Republican People’s Party) and the opposition fascist MHP (or Nationalist Movement Party) easily joining the nationalist cause spearheaded by the Prez and his AKP henchmen. The mainly Kurdish opposition HDP (or Peoples’ Democratic Party) quite naturally did not join the nationalist and Islamofascist throng in the Turkish Parliament. During the proceedings,  Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli made the following remarks: “Pulling out just a brick from a structure based on very sensitive and fragile balances [which is the territorial status quo that emerged in the wake of the Sykes-Picot agreement, ratified on 16 May 1916] will sow the seeds for new hatred, enmity and clashes . . . Th[is] pirate referendum which is illegal and unacceptable should be cancelled before it is too late,” making plain how the Turkish political establishment is unable to countenance the merest hint of Kurdish independence or even the noun Kurdistan, for that matter.

The opposition CHP MP Öztürk Yılmaz promptly echoed the Defense Minister’s words, declaring somewhat disingenuously that “[w]e want the referendum to be cancelled and support the motion not for war but for peace in the region.” In fact, the rather surreal concordance between government and opposition was all but underlined by a surprise meeting between the hapless PM and the CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli during a break at the session. The HDP MP Osman Baydemir, on the other hand, simply and matter-of-factly called the session’s predictable outcome a “war mandate . . . [and] a proclamation of enmity towards 40 million Kurds.” Meanwhile, on the same day. south of the border, in the sovereign state that is the as-yet unitary Republic of Iraq, where Kurds constitute about 17% of the population, the KRG’s ruling bloc sent a delegation to the central government in Baghdad, a Shi‘ite Arab coalition led by the PM Haider al-Abadi and ceremonially presided over by the ethnically Kurdish politician Fuad Masum. Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani’s top adviser Hoshiyar Zebari told the Reuters news agency that the “delegation will discuss the referendum but the referendum is still happening . . . We said we would talk to Baghdad before, during and after the referendum.” And then, there is the U.S., the main culprit behind the current predicament as the KRG was set up in 1992 (with first elections organised on 19 May), in the wake of the first Gulf War (2 August 1990–28 February 1991), led by Bush, Senior, the 41st President of the United States of America (1989-93). The current Trump administration has now vocally urged the Kurds to cancel the referendum, while the U.N. Security Council, for good measure, issued a warning calling the vote “potentially destabilizing” for Iraq and the region.

In other words, another frontline in the Middle East’s ongoing military conflict could very well be added to the conflagrations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen . . . another front that might or might not include the south-eastern part of Anatolia, nowadays more commonly referred to as Northern Kurdistan and an integral part of the territories of the Republic of Turkey, albeit largely inhabited by Kurds-carrying-Turkish-passports and ID cards. And this “potentially destabilizing” military action would come to sit on top of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State (or ISIS or Daesh) and pit Turkish soldiers against Kurdish Peshmerga and civilians . . . and northern Iraq as well as the whole of Turkey – as Kurds live dispersed thoughout the whole of the country and not just the South East – might very well join the lands where death and destruction have come to dominate daily life and have turned the solid and stable structures of men into sheer rubble and junk. At the moment, such alarmist words are merely hovering in the air, as on the appointed day, “Kurds voted in large numbers in an independence referendum in northern Iraq” (voter turnout of aproximately 78%), as explained by Reuters. While simultaneously, Turkey and Iran engaged in war games on the Iraqi border. Iraq’s PM al-Abadi, for his part, ordered the Iraqi army to “protect citizens being threatened and coerced” by triumphant Kurds.

Now that the long-awaited and much-feared day of reckoning has come and gone, “Tehran and Ankara fear the spread of separatism to their own Kurdish populations,” as expressed by Reuters, and the Baghdad government is all but fearful of maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity… and all-out ethnic war could just be around the corner now.

***

21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent scholar who was living in Istanbul for some time, with a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans and the Greater Middle East. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the book “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In the period 2010-11, he wrote op-eds for Today’s Zaman and in the further course of 2011 he also published a number of pieces in Hürriyet Daily News. In 2013, he was the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. He is on Twitter at @theerimtanangle

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment