Posted tagged ‘Iran and Kurds’

Support for a United Iraq Plays into the Hands of ISIS and Iran

September 26, 2017

Support for a United Iraq Plays into the Hands of ISIS and Iran, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, September 26, 2017

(How would Secretary Tillerson respond to Greenfield’s highlighted question about “catering to the whims of our Islamist enemies anyway?” — DM)

Why is the State Department in the business of catering to the whims of our Islamist enemies anyway?

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The State Department had a very predictable reaction to the Kurdish referendum.

The United States is deeply disappointed that the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including in areas outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region…

The unilateral referendum will greatly complicate the Kurdistan Regional Government’s relationship with both the Government of Iraq and neighboring states. The fight against ISIS is not over, and extremist groups are seeking to exploit instability and discord. We believe all sides should engage constructively in a dialogue to improve the future of all Iraqis. The United States opposes violence and unilateral moves by any party to alter boundaries.

The United States supports a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq and will continue to seek opportunities to assist Iraqis to fulfill their aspirations within the framework of the constitution.

1. The Iraqi constitution is a joke. Much like Iraqi democracy.

2. Iraqi federalism doesn’t exist in Iraqi Kurdistan. It’s mostly independent already.

3. Iraqi federalism is what created the latest incarnation of ISIS. Trying to uphold a united Iraq to fight ISIS is the same dumb, bankrupt foreign policy that made this mess under Bush and Obama.

A “united Iraq” means letting Iran’s Shiite puppets in Baghdad run the country. The Sunnis, unsurprisingly opt out, Al Qaeda, in some form or another, comes calling. And that’s how we ended up with ISIS. And then we have to choose between Iran and ISIS. Unfortunately, as the Hezbollah-ISIS convoy and the 9/11 report shows, they also have a secret relationship.

So it’s Catch 22. Either way the terrorists win and we lose.

The only “solution” is to support de facto partition of Iraq along demographic lines. It won’t be easy or smooth, but it’s going to keep happening in the form of outbreaks of violence anyway until it’s finally realized. Iraq, like Syria, is an imaginary country created by Western powers.

And that means letting the Kurds, who are the closest thing to a success story in Iraq, go their own way.

Iran and ISIS and Turkey will be most unhappy. Good.

Why is the State Department in the business of catering to the whims of our Islamist enemies anyway?

Arab League Opposition to Kurds Only Fuels Iran

September 24, 2017

Arab League Opposition to Kurds Only Fuels Iran, Clarion ProjectZach Huff, September 24, 2017

A rally for Kurdish independence in Erbil ahead of the Sept.25, 2017 referendum (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Sunni Arab leaders have largely been silent on the September 25 Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum, but Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abdul Gheit visited the Iraqi Kurdish capital last week to dissuade the Kurds from holding the vote.

In a recent letter to Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, Ahmed described his fears of “disintegration and fragmentation,” noting in his plea that the Arab League is “strongly keen on ensuring the territorial integrity of the Arab states.”

What seems lost on Ahmed is the strategic pragmatism in allowing the Kurds to further solidify their proven bastion against Iran and successive waves of regional instability.

The Kurdistan region is an effective vanguard against Iran, the chief instigator of regional division. At the same time, it has been the Kurds who have beaten back ISIS from their other borders.

The region has also weathered simultaneously a collapse in oil prices, a total cut of support from Baghdad, the arrival of two million refugees and the onslaught of ISIS. Standing in stark contrast to their surroundings, the Kurds are the model for stability.

Tellingly, who else vehemently opposes Kurdish self-determination in Iraq and Syria? Iran and her shadow proxies.

The regional balance continues to tilt in favor of Iran’s aspirations to create a Shiite crescent from Iran to Syria to counter the Sunni world, the West and Israel, all under a nuclear umbrella and aided by Russia. Kurdish independence would stymie that.

Competing regional designs, whether pan-Arab irredentism or America’s “freedom agenda,” now lay in tatters with Iran picking up the pieces.

With Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Qatar and Lebanon now overrun with Iranian influence, and with Iran’s expansionist sights now set on unprecedented relations with Turkey, it may not be long before the remaining Gulf States meet the full brunt of Iran and her proxies. In just the last year, Iran established a new pathway to the Mediterranean and strongholds on the Red Sea.

The Arab League in 2016 likewise condemned the Syrian Kurdish federalization, again citing fears of “disunity.” What “unity” does Secretary General Ahmed hope to preserve?

In addition to untold civilian casualties, is “Syria” still the Syrian Arab Republic if it requires massive, ongoing intervention by Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah militants to “restore” this “unity”? After all, the Arab League suspended Syria in 2011 on the basis of what the league saw as government suppression of protestors.

If an Arab city such as Aleppo can be leveled, then one cannot imagine what awaits intransigent Kurdish population centers. Indeed, Syrian officials recently warned of the “price” that the Syrian Kurdish democratic administration will pay for refusing to return to the fold.

Yet, it has only been Kurdistan region President Barzani and the Syrian Kurdish forces that have declared they will not allow the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units to operate in their respective areas — which the Iranian-influenced central governments of Baghdad and Damascus fully welcome, and which Ahmed is intent on defending.

Barzani has received warm welcomes in regional capitals, including Riyadh and Amman. While his desire for independence has been met with measured silence from Sunni Arab leaders, this silence is far from the vocal condemnation by the Arab League chief.

In May, Ahmed made a wise observation when he said, “Iran is enjoying what the Arab world is going through. There are those in Iran who are watching and waiting for us to destroy ourselves.”

Ahmed should consider whether he seeks a self-fulfilling prophecy by playing into Iran’s aspirations. It’s time for the Arab League to reexamine the source of this position on the “unity” of the failed states of Iraq and Syria, and whether this opinion truly reflects the strategic pragmatism and moral clarity that the region.

Trump should support an independent Kurdistan and stymie Iran’s march to the Mediterranean

August 27, 2017

Trump should support an independent Kurdistan and stymie Iran’s march to the Mediterranean, Fox News, Stephen Hollingshead, August 27, 2017

ERBIL, Iraq – This September 25, Iraqi Kurdistan will hold its long promised referendum on independence from Baghdad. This move is controversial everywhere except in Kurdistan; yet it presents a defining opportunity for U.S. interests.

President Trump should ratify Iraqi Kurdistan’s overwhelming desire for independence – a long overdue step toward healing the historical injustice of Sykes Picot and also an opportunity to bring his Safe Zone policy to Iraq to reverse the ISIS genocide of Christians, Yezidis, and Turkomen, many of whom have taken refuge inside Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, those two steps would create a buffer against ongoing Iranian efforts to build a land bridge to the Mediterranean.

The Arab world still resents the arrogance of Sykes Picot, the Western powers’ century old revision of the map of the Middle East, drawn not along natural lines of ethnic, religious, or linguistic communities but rather to divide them in ways to allow the West to control resource extraction. But even more than the Arabs, the Kurds have reason to chafe under the violence of Sykes Picot. Moderate-majority Sunni Muslims, Kurds are the largest ethnic group on the planet without their own country. They live as a majority in one contiguous geographic area yet are divided by the map into Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran, and so have been oppressed as an ethnic minority.

When ISIS conquered large swaths of the region in 2014, many of the displaced, especially Christians and Yezidis fleeing genocide, took refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan, the most U.S.-friendly area of Iraq. While the U.S. and EU have officially declared this to be a genocide, we have yet to do anything to fulfill our treaty obligations to redress it.

Genocide is not merely about theft, rape, and murder: It is a scheme to eradicate a people from a place. In that sense, genocide can and should be reversed.

President Trump’s proposed Safe Zone in Syria is not merely realpolitik but is the preferred policy of those I’ve spoken to in the camps – they want to go home.  That Safe Zone should include those areas of Northern Iraq adjacent to Syria that are home to the victims of the ISIS genocide. Those areas also border Iraqi Kurdistan, which has offered refuge to so many displaced by ISIS.

President Trump, who carried Michigan by fewer than 12,000 votes, owes his margin of victory there to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians around Detroit who supported him overwhelmingly. It is time to deliver his promise to make it possible for their relatives to return home.

Safe Zones only work when security fosters productivity. In addition to external security, internal security and the rule of law (including the administration of property rights) are absolutely necessary to achieve lasting peace and allow people to return to the productive employment required to restore their sense of dignity.

The United States should enlist a coalition including Kurdistan, Iraq, and NATO allies to secure the borders of the zone, but insist that internal security forces and judicial administration be entirely indigenous, under international training and observation. In other words, both the Shia militias Baghdad has sent to the North at Iran’s instigation (who are already moving Shia into formerly Christian areas) and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces who today compete with them for control of these areas, must leave the zone. This is a deal the Kurds are willing to make, and President Trump must be willing to bring Baghdad to the table by holding hostage the prospect of any continued U.S. aid. A united Iraq is a failed experiment, and our aid only goes to prop up a government dominated by Tehran.  As a Peshmerga general asked me last year at his command post on on the front with ISIS, “Don’t you Americans know that Iran is even more dangerous than ISIS?”

While Baghdad has become enthralled to Tehran, Tehran is expanding its military footprint, sending Shia militias into Iraq and propping up Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon. Iran’s long term strategy to pave a road to the Mediterranean is plodding along without raising much alarm in the very West that strategy is designed to threaten. It is time we do something about it. We might start by helping our only friends in the neighborhood: The Kurds, Christians, and Yezidis.

As the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Falah Mustafa Bakir, told me this week, “Kurds yearn for a long term strategic partnership with the United States. We share the same values and principles, and deserve the support of the US.” Let’s make a deal with the Kurds to protect our other friends in the region and unite them against Iranian encroachment.  All they want is the same independence that made America great.

Dr. Hollingshead is an entrepreneur and economic development advisor who directs IraqHaven.org.

 

Strides in the Struggle for an Independent Kurdistan

August 24, 2017

Strides in the Struggle for an Independent Kurdistan, Gatestone InstituteLawrence A. Franklin, August 24, 2017

The regional regime that is in the best position to threaten the drive for a free Kurdish state is that of Iran.

The country that has the most to lose in the event of an independent Kurdistan is Turkey, due to its huge population of ethnic Kurds, some of whom support the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has battled Turkey’s military for decades.

Ironically and thankfully, this combination of recently acquired combat experience on the part of the Kurds — plus widespread unrest in the region, still reeling from the “Arab Spring,” and the loss of Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty over swaths of their territories — improves the chance of a peaceful secession of Kurdistan from Iraq.

On September 25, 2017, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote overwhelmingly in favor of establishing an independent nation-state. All ethnic groups, from Erbil to Zakho — and in other disputed areas claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), such as Kirkuk, Sinjar and Makmoor — are eligible to take part in the referendum.

Although the result of the plebiscite will not be binding, it is likely to enhance existing secessionist sentiment among the populace and increase pressure on KRG officials.

The Kurds’ dream of a separate state is more than a century old. Yet geography and the imperialist designs of outside forces have conspired to render that goal a nightmare. Predictably, the most vehement opposition to the establishment of an independent state for the Kurds comes from the major powers with large Kurdish minorities — including Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Apparently fearing that a Kurdish state would heighten irredentist sentiment among the Kurdish minorities within their territories to merge with a “Greater Kurdistan,” the governments of these countries view any form of Kurdish independence as a national-security threat. It is thus quite possible that one or more of the KRG’s neighbors will move militarily to prevent a Kurdish secession from Iraq.

The regional regime that is in the best position to threaten the drive for a Kurdish Free State is that of Iran. It already employs small pro-Iranian militias — the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization — on KRG territory, operating under the rubric of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Should Iran decide to take military action to prevent a Kurdish secession from Iraq, it will likely deploy the PMF to do so.

However, while the political and military asymmetry between Iraq’s Kurdish region and outside regional powers have seemed fixed, the historical inequality no longer exists. Currently, in fact, no state in the region easily could crush a determined effort by the Kurds to sever the artificial ties that have bound them, disadvantageously, to the Arab people of Mesopotamia.

This is chiefly due to the Peshmerga (“those who defy death”), Kurdish fighters who have become combat-hardened warriors; so much so that, with NATO air support in August 2014, they fought the Islamic State fighters to a standstill outside the gates of their regional capital, Erbil. In the event of a confrontation against the Peshmerga, even the pro-Iran PMF militias would pay a heavy price.

Greater Zab River near Erbil Iraqi Kurdistan. (Image source: jamesdale10/Wikimedia Commons)

Most of Iran’s Kurds live in the western part of the Islamic Republic, in Kordestan, West Azerbaijan and the Kermanshah provinces. Although regionally concentrated, they are not in a position to secede from Iran, due mainly to the efforts of Tehran’s intelligence services to suppress Kurdish irredentism by eviscerating rebel organizations. That could change, however, if Iraq’s Kurds are successful in seceding from the central government in Baghdad. For one thing, it might buoy Iran-based Kurdish groups — such as the Komela (Society of Revolutionary Toilers of Kordestan), the Kurd Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Free Life Party of Kordestan (PJAK) — and spur them to rise up against the regime in Tehran.

The country that has the most to lose in the event of an independent Kurdistan is Turkey, due to its huge population of ethnic Kurds, some of whom support the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has battled Turkey’s military for decades.

Although Turkey is also the greatest obstacle to Kurdish independence, Turkish troops have become entangled in the Syrian civil war. They have also not recuperated from the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the summer of 2016, an act that resulted, among other things, in a massive purge within the Turkish military.

To allay Istanbul’s apprehensions that an independent Kurdish state on its borders might energize Turkey’s Kurds to seek autonomy, KRG political leaders are likely to forswear any assistance to the PKK, at least publicly. Kurdish spokesmen will probably also point out that Turks could benefit from a stable Kurdistan’s pledge to keep the oil flowing to Turkey from Kurdish fields around Kirkuk.

Syria also has a Kurdish minority, making up about 10% of the general population, most of whom reside in the north and northeast — where they have established the Democratic Administration of Rojava. Due to the raging civil war, Damascus currently cannot spare the troops and resources it would take to suppress this Kurdish enclave. Nor does the Assad regime have the current capability to dismantle the Kurdish military opposition in Syria, particularly the effective Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). In additions, tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds — along with Syria-based Turkmen, Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians – have banded together to form the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been fighting ISIS, particularly in Raqaa.

Even if the Assad regime survives the bloody war, now in its sixth year, it will be too weak initially to suppress secession from its own Kurds.

Furthermore, the Syria that eventually emerges is likely to be a good deal smaller than its current size, which would force it to rely its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies to conquer Rojava. Such a scenario would be thick with dangers, including a possible American military response.

Ironically and thankfully, this combination of recently-acquired combat experience on the part of the Kurds — plus widespread unrest in the region, still reeling from the “Arab Spring,” and the loss of Syrian and Iraqi sovereignty over swaths of their territories — improves the chance of a peaceful secession of Kurdistan from Iraq.

Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards launch recruitment campaign in preparation for war against Iraqi Kurdistan: official

July 21, 2017

Iranian Revolutionary Guards launch recruitment campaign in preparation for war against Iraqi Kurdistan: official, World Affairs Journal, ARA News, July 20, 2016

(Please see also, Ezra Levant in Iraq: Kurdish Muslims who protect Christians. — DM)

ran’s Revolutionary Guards. File photo

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces in Iran’s Kurdistan and its recruiting forces, known as the Basij, have received orders to launch a recruitment campaign in preparation for a possible war against the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq in the event of its independence.

On Wednesday, Iranian Kurdish journalist Azad Mustovi quoted an informed source in Kurdistan Iran as saying that in recent days, the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards and the mobilization forces “have launched a recruitment campaign to send troops to Iraqi Kurdistan if necessary” in preparation for a possible war with the Kurdish Peshmerga of Iraq in the event of the declaration of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is planned for September 25.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security concerns, some elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of Iranian Kurds origins declared their unwillingness to fight against the Kurds of Iraq, but they are ready to fight against ISIS.

Mustovi told Al-Arabiya that: “After the president of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, announced the organization of an independence referendum from Iraq on September 25th, the Iranian regime has been trying to prevent it at any cost.”

In June, the Iranian government condemned the Kurdish move towards independence in northern Iraq, urging all parties to “respect the Iraqi constitution and maintain unity.”

“This unilateral move by Erbil (capital of Iraqi Kurdistan) is unacceptable,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Bahram Qasimi said.

“The Kurdistan region is a part of Iraq, and it cannot be separated from the country,” Qasimi stressed, calling Kurdistan’s independence referendum “an irresponsible move”.

The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, announced September 25 as a referendum day on Kurdish independence.

Both Iran and Turkey have opposed an independence referendum, however, the Iraqi Kurds say that the regional countries should not interfere in the region’s affairs.

“When we talk about a referendum, we talk about Kurdistan in Iraq only,” KRG’s foreign relations chief Falah Mustafa Bakir said, in a message to the neighbouring countries that have their own Kurdish populations, and fear Kurdish independence will inspire their own Kurds to seek more independence.

Iraqi Kurds Unite Ahead of March 21 Confrontation with Iran

March 14, 2017

Iraqi Kurds Unite Ahead of March 21 Confrontation with Iran, Clarion ProjectRyan Mauro, March 14, 2017

(What, if anything, can/will the Trump administration do to help overthrow the Mad Mullahs? Iran seems ripe for regime change, please see, e.g., From Execution to Medieval Torture: “Iran’s Mandela” Ayatollah Boroujerdi, and In Iran, A Nationwide Teachers’ Demonstration.— DM)

Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst Prof. Ryan Mauro & Legal Analyst Jennifer Breedon in Iraq with Hossein Yazdanpanah, the leader of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK)

Its leader, Mustafa Hijri, said in a speech in Europe in October 2016 that his group was not fighting just for Iranian Kurds, but for the replacement of the current theocratic Iranian regime with a secular democracy for all. He asked the “progressive and democratic forces of the world” to support the PDKI and other Iranians seeking to topple the government.

Kurds are an oppressed minority in Iran, representing about 10 percent of the population (between 8 and 10 million people). According to the U.N., almost half of the political prisoners in Iran are Kurdish and about one-fifth of the executed prisoners last year were Kurdish.

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Mark March 21 on your calendar. Six armed Kurdish parties in Iraq have united ahead of expected protests in Iran on that date. Both the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and an Iranian Kurdish militia have held military exercises in preparation for expected conflict.

The six groups are preparing for protests in the Kurdish areas of Iran to celebrate the Kurdish New Year, Newroz, on March 21. Holiday events become the scene of political protests, Iranian regime repression and even clashes.

But the Kurdish alliance says this time will be different because they are unified, preparing in advance and agreed to jointly collect and share intelligence in January for a common defense against the Iranian regime.

“There always have been activities in Kurdistan for celebrating Newroz and these activities always are opportunities for people to express their resistance against the fact that they have been denied of their basic rights.

“Using symbols, songs and gatherings, youth in Newroz have always shown their anger and resentment toward the lasting oppression of Kurds in Iran,” explained the U.S. representative of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI).

The PDKI recently held a military exercise near the border with Iran in preparation for a “full guerilla fight,” in the words of one of its officials. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps likewise held a military exercise in the Kurdish-majority province of Kermanshah, where protests and clashes are expected.

PDKI has about 2,000 fighters in the border area between the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region and Iran. It declared the end of a 20-year ceasefire with Iran last year and openly said it was sending its Peshmerga fighters into Iranian Kurdistan, but would not fire the first shot.

The Kurdish Rudaw newspaper describes PDKI as “historically considered the most formidable Kurdish military organization opposing the Islamic Republic in Tehran.”

Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst Prof. Ryan Mauro & Legal Analyst Jennifer Breedon inside the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) on a recent trip to Iraq.

Its leader, Mustafa Hijri, said in a speech in Europe in October 2016 that his group was not fighting just for Iranian Kurds, but for the replacement of the current theocratic Iranian regime with a secular democracy for all. He asked the “progressive and democratic forces of the world” to support the PDKI and other Iranians seeking to topple the government.

A Shiite political bloc within the Iraqi parliament called on the Iraqi government to kick out the Kurdish forces that fight the Iranian regime in January. The Kurdish parties attributed the move to Iranian influence, pointing out that it came after two bombings targeted the office of the PDKI in Koye, Iraq in December. Seven people died. The party blamed Iran for the attack.

Prior to the attack on the PDKI, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia of arming Kurdish opposition forces through its consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan. Khamenei demanded that the Kurdish Regional Government stop all opposition activity and close the Saudi consulate, neither of which happened.

The other Iraqi Kurdish parties in the alliance are the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Khabat and three groups all bearing the name of Komala.

Another group that is likely to be active in the confrontation with Iran but is not part of the six-party alliance is the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). I met their leader Hossein Yazdanpanah in January in Iraq at one of his camps near the battlefield with ISIS.

Kurds are an oppressed minority in Iran, representing about 10 percent of the population (between 8 and 10 million people). According to the U.N., almost half of the political prisoners in Iran are Kurdish and about one-fifth of the executed prisoners last year were Kurdish.

There was significant repression last year resulting in bloody clashes between the PDKI and other Kurdish militants on one side and the Iranian regime on the other. It received almost no attention from the West, a rather unsurprising development considering the U.S. turned away from Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution that could have positively changed the world.

If the Iranian Kurdish opposition in Iraq has its way, then the U.S. will have another opportunity to support the Iranian people. In my meetings with Iranian Kurds in Iraq, I was struck by how much hope they invested in the hope that, despite the U.S.’ mistakes and overlooking of their cause, the U.S. would eventually come around and support them—not only because it is in the U.S.” interest, but because America is a good country with good people.

America and the West more broadly should not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Let’s hope that when the Kurds rise up against the Iranian regime on March 21, they will be joined by a chorus of freedom-loving voices eager to see them triumph over Islamist tyranny.