Posted tagged ‘Kirkuk’

Kurds win Syrian oil under secret US-Russian deal – prize for Raqqa

October 23, 2017

Kurds win Syrian oil under secret US-Russian deal – prize for Raqqa, DEBKAfile, October 23, 2017

Washington felt that the Kurds also deserved to be compensated for their Iraqi brothers’ loss of the Kirkuk oil city, which was seized last week by an Iraqi force boosted by pro-Iranian Shiite militias.

*************************************

US-backed Syrian Kurdish militias reported Sunday, Oct. 22, the capture of Syria’s biggest oil field of al-Omar in the eastern Deir Ez-Zour province.

They were pressing on with their offensive against the Islamic State after capturing Raqqa. Al-Omar is located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The Kurds’ takeover pre-empted its grab by a mixed force of Russian-backed Syrian army contingents and Hizballah, which had halted 6 km short of al-Omar.

While in the hands of ISIS, this field pumped up to 10,000 barrels today and is capable of producing up to 40,000 bpd. If repaired and brought up to scratch, it could potentially yield up to 120,000 bpd.

It now turns out that the Russian command’s secret order to the Syrian/Hizballah forces, exclusively reported by DEBKAfile last week, to halt where they stood after capturing Mayadin in eastern Syria from ISIS – and not  advance on the oil field – was prompted by unpublished talks between US and Russian officers in the area.

The officers reached a deal on the disposition of these oil fields. Under that deal, it was decided to award the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia the richest Syrian field as a prize for its role in leading the SDF in the capture of ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa.

DEBKAfile’s sources add that Washington felt that the Kurds also deserved to be compensated for their Iraqi brothers’ loss of the Kirkuk oil city, which was seized last week by an Iraqi force boosted by pro-Iranian Shiite militias. The loss of Kirkuk to Baghdad and Tehran has deprived the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq of the income from 600,000 barrels of oil a day. The al-Omar field produces a much smaller amount, but its revenue would save the KRG from economic meltdown.

Sources in Damascus, disgruntled over the handover of al-Omar to the Kurds, accused the Syrian Arab tribes who fought in Raqqa of backing the Kurdish militia’s claim to the oil field. They also suggested that ISIS opted to surrender the oil field to the Sunni Kurds, rather than letting it fall into the hands of Assad’s Alawi regime.

Russia’s consent to hand over Syria’s biggest oil field to pro-American Kurds was calculated to yield a quid pro quo in the form of Washington’s support for the Russian oil giant Rosneft taking control of the Kurdish oil pipeline from the KRG via Turkey to the Mediterranean.

Last Thursday, the state-controlled Rosneft reported a deal with the KRG to take majority control of 60 percent in the operation of this pipeline project.

The Iraqi government has demanded clarifications for Moscow’s step.

Iran has given US ‘slap in the face’ with Kirkuk: expert

October 19, 2017

Iran has given US ‘slap in the face’ with Kirkuk: expert, RudawRebaz Ali, October 17, 2017

Iran has delivered the US a “slap in the face” by backing Hashd al-Shaabi’s march on Kirkuk within just 60 hours of US President Donald Trump’s speech, says Michael Pregent.

Speaking to Rudaw’s Rebaz Ali on Monday as events were unfurling in Kirkuk, Pregent expressed frustration over Washington’s stance on the Kurds, believing Washington is too close to the ruling Dawa party of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Answering questions from the media later in the day, Trump refused to take sides, simply stating “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides, but we don’t like the fact that their clashing.”

A Middle East analyst, Pregent is a former intelligence officer for the US Departments of Defense and State. He embedded as an advisor to the Peshmerga in Mosul in 2005-2006

Rudaw: Why is the US so silent on the situation happening in Kirkuk and Hashd al-Shaabi using American weapons against Peshmerga?

Michael Pregent: We’re surprised. We issued an order, not an order but a warning to Baghdad not to use military force against Kurdish positions in and around Kirkuk. Secretary Mattis said that, the president gave a very strong speech on Friday designating the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and the Hashd al-Shaabi are commanded by IRGC affiliates, Revolutionary Guard Corps affiliates. We pay money to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and they’re shifting American resources and equipment to these Iranian-led militias. We had a statement today that the Baghdad spokesman said Qassem Soleimani is an advisor to the Hashd al-Shaabi.

We are watching. I know we’re watching. The DoD (Department of Defense) is aware, the Pentagon’s aware and we’re going to see the results tomorrow morning in DC of what happened in the last six hours and through the night. We’re likely to see that this is exactly what the United States cannot allow. But more importantly, this just shows that we’re losing leverage with Baghdad. If you warn Baghdad and they do it anyway, it’s because Tehran is telling them to do it and they are okay with it, they agree. But this is an opportunity now for the United States, especially after the president’s speech, where he was very tough on Iran, to do something because this is testing American resolve by a Qassem Soleimani-led force moving against our allies, allies we’ve had since the Gulf War, even before that, moving against our allies less than 60 hours after the president designated them a terrorist group*.

So tomorrow, Washington DC will wake up and see what happens and everybody hopefully holds their positions tonight, the Iraqi security forces stop, the Hashd al-Shaabi are declared an illegal military, an illegal militia and moved out. But tomorrow, veterans of the Iraq war, myself and others, veterans in Congress that I speak to will be making our voices as loud as we can for the US to do something. This is, as an American who fought with the Peshmerga, to see this is… uh… I don’t have any words. So, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

We just saw a statement from the Pentagon asking both sides to be calm and to restrain from using violence, but in fact, it’s the Hashd al-Shaabi who started attacking the Peshmerga and they started the violence that the Pentagon is talking about. What do you think about that?

Well, I saw the statement and the language I didn’t like was ‘we urge both sides to stop, yet we still condemn the Kurdish referendum’. That language actually gives Tehran, Baghdad, and Ankara a green light to do these types of actions. The United States needs to have a strong statement. The vote was a democratic vote. The vote was not an illegal vote. It should not be met with force. It should not be met with violence. I don’t believe that that was crafted by Mattis. I believe it was crafted by the DoD communications department, because the language is not Mattis-like. The language is very Brett McGurk-like… and [it’s a problem].

So people like yourself, the veterans, how do you think they’re going to respond to this? You fought against this in Iraq for years and now you see this happening. This must be frustrating for you and people like yourself. What do you think you need to do? 

Well, the thing we’ve been fighting for for two years is the designation of the Revolutionary Guard corps as a terrorist organization and the decertification of the Iran deal. We got that Friday. That needs to mean something. Our Sunni regional allies heard the president’s message. It was very strong. This should restore confidence in our regional allies.

Pillar number one is to neutralize the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ destabilizing activities across the region. The Kirkuk operation is a destabilizing activity. You can’t give a tough speech and then allow Iran less than 60 hours later to move against an ally. So I would hope that veterans are upset as well, civilians alike.

The Kurdish people are built for western democracy support. They’re built for democratic support. They’re tolerant, they’re accepting, and I find it ironic that the United Nations and other non-government organizations choose to operate out of Kurdistan in order to help Iraqis throughout. When there’s instability in Baghdad, when ISIS invaded Iraq, people go to Kurdistan. Why do they go to Kurdistan? Because it’s an accepting region, it takes care of its own security. It’s an ally of the West. There’s problems, yes, but let’s talk about the problems. We don’t use military action to solve them.

We saw the speech by the president on Iran, but now we see that Qassem Soleimani has been going around in Iraq, meeting with the prime minister and ordering the Hashd al-Shaabi and other militias against the Kurdish Peshmerga, as you said, less than 60 hours after the president’s speech. What does that say about the US involvement in Iraq? Do you think after this or tomorrow, are we going to see less support for the government of Iraq and Prime Minister Abadi from the US government, after what they have seen in the last couple of days, the Iraqis dealing with Qassem Soleimani and the IRGC?

Well, this shows the president that the Iranians didn’t take him seriously. They heard the speech and they’re scoffing at it. This is a slap in the face to a US president by conducting these types of activities after this speech.

Baghdad is part of this, so Baghdad is doing the same thing. I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, but I do know that Secretary Mattis issued a statement and Abadi promised the United States he would not conduct an offensive operation against the Kurds. That operation is ongoing now. I truly believe that even if Abadi didn’t want to do it, the Iranians could still make this happen. The Quds force commander on the ground, I don’t know his name, but he actually told KDP officials and PUK officials, “Listen, either work with us or we can bring the whole Iraqi army here.”

So this is an Iranian commander telling Kurdish political parties that we can tell the Iraqi army what to do, we can tell the Iraqi government what to do. And I think that everybody believes that, because we’re seeing it. We’re witnessing it.

So you said this is a slap in the face for President Trump. How do you think President Trump would react to this slap in the face? Do you think that he’s going to accept it?

I don’t think President Trump knows he’s been slapped in the face. The president needs to know who the Kurds are. The president needs to know that the Kurds have been our strongest US ally in Iraq. That the Kurds have helped us fight ISIS, they helped us decimate al-Qaeda. They’ve protected Sunnis, Christians, Shiite nationalists from reprisal attacks from Shia militias as civilians fled to Kurdistan after the violence in Baghdad in 2005-06.

I was actually in Duhok and a family came up to me and said, ‘We can’t talk to you in Baghdad, and thank you, because we’ll get targeted, but thank you for being here.’ I didn’t know who they were. I said ‘Where are you from?’ They said, ‘We’re from Sadr city.’ So that means something.

But I think the president needs to know who the Kurds are and I don’t think he does. [Secretary James] Mattis does, H.R. McMaster does, I don’t think [Rex] Tillerson does. And I think Brett McGurk knows exactly who the Kurds are, but he’s already picked sides. And that’s not coming from me necessarily. That’s coming from everybody I’ve talked to on the ground in Iraq, from Sunni nationalists, Kurdish nationalists, Shiite nationalists, they say the biggest problem is the US government is listening more to the Dawa party than they are to anybody else in Iraq.

What’s happening now is all going on in front of the US government’s eyes. They see how Prime Minister Abadi and the government of Iraq have been declining calls for negotiation from the KRG in order to avoid violence. There has been a blockade, international flights have been banned. And the KRG have been trying to do everything to start negotiations in order to avoid violence, but Prime Minister Abadi and the government in Iraq have declined that. What do you think the United States should do? Why have they been so silent against this?

I think the biggest problem is we’ve given the Iraq portfolio to a man from the Department of State – to Brett McGurk. Now Brett McGurk told DC, Baghdad, Tehran, and Ankara that he could stop the Kurdish people from voting, that the US had enough leverage with the Kurds to get them to stop. Last night, he probably told DC that he had enough leverage with Baghdad to get Baghdad to stop, to not go into Kirkuk. Either that, or he’s signaled some sort of green light.

I’m frustrated by this, because this does not bode well for the relationships we’ve established with Kurds. The Peshmerga that I know, I’ve known for almost 12 years now, and I don’t ever want to put a time limit on a friendship or an alliance. And I think this is a moment where the United States… you know we got the strong statement on Iran, we got a designation of the IRGC, we’re talking about their destabilizing activities. This is what it looks like less than 60 hours after the speech. This is a provocation. This is a slap in the face.

How do you envision the future relationship between the US and the Kurdish government after what’s happening now? A lot of people believe that they have been betrayed by the US government.

Well if this continues and Baghdad conducts a military operation like they have against ISIS-held territory, if you start seeing mortars and artillery like we’re seeing tonight in – what’s the name of the city?

Tuz.

Yes. We’re seeing that now. I would hope that this gets taken care of tomorrow, that this stops. But our relationship with Kurdistan – basically, every US soldier that has ever worked with a Peshmerga is now looking to our US government, saying ‘Don’t do this to this ally of ours, you can’t do it.’ I don’t even have the words for this.

* On Friday, President Trump authorized sanctions on the IRGC for its support of terrorism, but stopped short of designating the force a terror organization.

Iran Plays Chess, We Play Checkers

October 17, 2017

Iran Plays Chess, We Play Checkers, FrontPage MagazineKenneth R. Timmerman, October 17, 2017

I am not dissing the new Iran strategy the President rolled out on Friday, far from it. My Iranian dissident friends drew much encouragement from the President’s willingness to take an all fronts approach against the Iranian regime, not just focus on its nuclear weapons program. The fact that he mentioned the regime’s dreadful record of human rights abuses and political repression was significant.

But does it really mean the U.S. is finally ready to provide material support to a pro-freedom coalition in Iran to spark a popular uprising against the regime?

Don’t hold your breath. The Deep State would never abide by it.

Barzani himself has made bad moves. He has recklessly endangered his Queen (Kirkuk), while not defending his King (Erbil). And while doing so, he has tweaked the nose of his only committed ally, the United States, and alienated his local rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of former Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3.

Barzani appears to have realized he has overstepped with his ill-timed and poorly-prepared referendum, and has agreed to cede the K-1 airbase and other positions south of Kirkuk to Iranian-backed Iraqi government forces south of Kirkuk.

It’s time for the United States to face facts and recognize that an independent, united Iraq ceased to exist several years ago, and that the only way for us to check Iranian domination of the region is to support a united, independent and democratic Kurdistan, with U.S. military bases in Kirkuk and Erbil.

To get there will require a great deal of hands-on diplomacy, because Barzani has shown himself to be reckless, unreliable and undemocratic. We need to working the ground, aligning the players.

********************************

And the Kurds pay the price for our mistakes.

The Iranian-backed attack in Iraqi Kurdistan is nothing short of disastrous for the United States, for U.S. interests and U.S. allies in the region, and for American prestige.

It’s a hockey-style power play by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Suleymani, and a direct challenge to President Trump, coming just hours after the President announced a new get tough policy on Iran.

A U.S. ally in Baghdad is attacking another U.S. ally in Kurdistan using U.S. weapons, including M1-A2 Abrams tanks, paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars. And they are doing so under the watchful eyes of U.S. and coalition drones and fighter jets, which continue to control the skies over Iraq.

How in the world did we get here?

Even Democrats should be ready to admit by now that the American withdrawal from the Middle East under Obama and the Iran nuclear deal have emboldened the Iranian regime, while removing much of the hard-won leverage over Iran that sanctions had won for us.

Today, if we want to get tough on Iran, we can no longer call on our European allies to shut down Iran’s access to the international financial system. We can no longer impose gargantuan fines on a French or a German bank to punish them for violating those sanctions and to deter them from doing it again.

Today, our main leverage over Iran is military. We can bomb their forces in Iraq. We can intercept their ships. Eventually, we could take out their nuclear weapons production facilities.

If that sounds an awful lot like war, it’s because it is.

As Thomas Jefferson reportedly said in relation to the Barbary Pirates, an earlier jihadi Muslim confederacy that declared war on America: sanctions are the only option between appeasement and war. Obama just removed sanctions. QED.

But the Trump administration is not without blame.

The President instructed his national security team to take a fresh look at our overall strategy toward the Islamic State of Iran early in his presidency. To show how serious the administration was, national security advisor Michael Flynn “put Iran on notice” in an on-record briefing on Feb. 1.

And then, something happened. Rather than continue the “get tough” policy by decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, imposing new sanctions and other measures as Flynn was recommending, the President fired Flynn and other hard-line advisors, and everything turned to mush.

I am not dissing the new Iran strategy the President rolled out on Friday, far from it. My Iranian dissident friends drew much encouragement from the President’s willingness to take an all fronts approach against the Iranian regime, not just focus on its nuclear weapons program. The fact that he mentioned the regime’s dreadful record of human rights abuses and political repression was significant.

But does it really mean the U.S. is finally ready to provide material support to a pro-freedom coalition in Iran to spark a popular uprising against the regime?

Don’t hold your breath. The Deep State would never abide by it.

But Qassem Suleymani wasn’t going to wait to find out. Perhaps assuming – correctly – that the U.S. President was leaning out over his skis, he decided to act decisively to test the President’s resolve.

Want to get tough on the Iranian regime, Mr. President? Then bomb the Iranian-backed militias attacking our Kurdish allies in Northern Iraq and send U.S. special forces to capture Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleymani, a war criminal who has the blood of more than a thousand U.S. soldiers on his hands. (Watch a video of how Iran killed our soldiers in Iraq here).

Because that’s what Suleymani is daring you to do. And he’s betting, you won’t lift a finger to help the Kurds or to threaten him in any way.

In Middle East parlance, that makes Suleymani – not Donald Trump – the strong horse, the one to be feared and respected.

To be fair to Suleymani, he has been advancing his pieces like a brilliant chess player, springing his trap on us at precisely the moment when it would cause us the most damage.

First, in 2014 as ISIS was preparing its assault on Mosul and the Assyrian Christian and Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq, he instructed his puppet, then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to order the Iraqi army to withdraw from Mosul ahead of the ISIS advance.

That left Mosul defenseless and accounts for why ISIS was able to take over the city in a matter of hours without a fight.

Maliki fled briefly to Iran after his role in the abandon of Mosul was revealed in the Iraqi media, and was soon replaced by Qassem Suleymani’s new front man, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

Same puppet-master, new puppet.

Next, he recruited 100,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters into the Hasht-e Shahbi militia, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU. They might be Iraqis, but they are owned by Qassem Suleymani and his Quds Force.

When the U.S. decided to rearm the Iraqi military to join the fight against ISIS, Suleymani positioned PMU units to fill the vacuum when ISIS left.

As I learned in July while on a reporting mission to northern Iraq, the PMU faced off with the Kurdish peshmerga all across the Nineveh Plain and was already threatening to confront them in Kirkuk.

As the U.S.-backed Iraqi army drove ISIS out of Iraq, Suleymani’s PMU raced to the border with Syria, opening a land bridge for Iran into Syria and Lebanon, putting Iran on Israel’s northern border directly for the first time.

Today, Suleymani and his strategy ally, Turkish president Erdogan, want to jerk the leash of Iraqi Kurdish president Massoud Barzani to make him realize who really calls the shots in the region.

Guess what: for all of Donald Trump’s welcome bravoura, it’s not the United States.

One immediate goal both the Turks and Iranians share is to eliminate safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan for the PKK and PJAK, Turkish and Iranian Kurdish dissident groups. Both have reiterated that demand in recent days.

Beyond that, they want to make Barzani kneel as a vassal to his suzerain, and abandon all hopes for Kurdish independence. That can only happen if the United States drops its support for the KRG.

Barzani himself has made bad moves. He has recklessly endangered his Queen (Kirkuk), while not defending his King (Erbil). And while doing so, he has tweaked the nose of his only committed ally, the United States, and alienated his local rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of former Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3.

Barzani appears to have realized he has overstepped with his ill-timed and poorly-prepared referendum, and has agreed to cede the K-1 airbase and other positions south of Kirkuk to Iranian-backed Iraqi government forces south of Kirkuk.

So far, the Pentagon is pretending that nothing is happening, just a bit of maneuvering among friends.

This is not just embarrassing, it is dangerous, wrong-headed, and will lead to total disaster. We’ve already lost Iraq, thanks to Obama’s withdrawal in 2011. Now we are about to lose the last ally on the ground that we have, the Kurds.

It’s time for the United States to face facts and recognize that an independent, united Iraq ceased to exist several years ago, and that the only way for us to check Iranian domination of the region is to support a united, independent and democratic Kurdistan, with U.S. military bases in Kirkuk and Erbil.

To get there will require a great deal of hands-on diplomacy, because Barzani has shown himself to be reckless, unreliable and undemocratic. We need to working the ground, aligning the players.

We need to be playing chess, not checkers.

Iraqi forces recapture contentious Kirkuk in overnight offensive

October 16, 2017

Iraqi forces recapture contentious Kirkuk in overnight offensive, Long War Journal, October 16, 2017

The clashes in Kirkuk have exposed rifts between Iraqi Kurdistan’s rival political parties: the Patriot Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The PUK reportedly permitted Baghdad to advance into Kirkuk, despite KDP dissent. The PUK and the Talabani family receive support from Iran, raising suspicion about a potential backroom deal to hand over the city to Iranian-aligned forces and undermine the KDP. Prominent Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Javed Zarif and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, have visited Iraqi Kurdistan recently to pay respects to Jalal Talabani, former president of Iraq and Talabani family patriarch. The PUK’s rival, the KDP, received the lionshare of credit for ushering in the Kurdish referendum.

*************************************

Iraqi troops from the US-trained Counter-Terrorism Service, backed by Iranian-supported Popular Mobilization Forces, seized control of the city of Kirkuk from the Kurdish Regional Government today in a rapid offensive launched within the last 24 hours. The Iraqi government quickly capitalized on its victory against the Islamic State in the adjacent city of Hawija and turned its energy on the secessionist Kurds in Kirkuk. The quick strike exposed deep fault lines existing within the anti-Islamic State coalition and Kurdish politics.

The United States has trained and equipped both Kurdish and Iraqi forces as part of the ongoing anti-Islamic State operation. The military operation followed heightened tensions resulting from the Sept. 25 Kurdish independence referendum. It also followed President Trump’s announcement of a new Iran strategy on Friday.

Kirkuk, an economically significant city in northern Iraq with more than one million residents, has been a political and sectarian hotspot since the US ousted Saddam Hussein from power in 2003. Kurdish forces have controlled Kirkuk since the summer of 2014, when the Iraqi military fled northern Iraq following the Islamic State’s invasion. Kirkuk, which is outside of the established borders of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, is a major oil producing region in Iraq.

Kirkuk has also been a major sectarian faultline in Iraq, with Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, and Sunni Arabs jockeying for influence in the government.

The Government of Iraq’s War Media Cell, the outlet which has been reporting on the anti-Islamic State fight, has been releasing updates on the Kirkuk offensive. At around noon local time, the War Media Cell reported that Iraqi forces controlled the Kirkuk Airport, also known as K-1. In its most recent post, the War Media Cell reported that Iraqi forces control a number of key points in Kirkuk, including the industrial neighborhood and North Oil Company, as well as a power plant, a refinery, and a police station.

Before Iraqi troops entered Kirkuk, Kurdish Peshmerga forces clashed with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) south of the city. The Kurdistan Regional Government claimed Peshmerga forces “destroyed at least five US Humvees used by [the] PMF” as it advanced south and southwest of the city.

The Iraqi government has relied on the PMF, a grouping of militias most of which are backed by Iran, for support in its fight against the Islamic State. Iranian-linked militias have played a key role in liberating cities such as Mosul, Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, Baiji, and most recently Hawija, from Islamic State rule. The Iraqi government has institutionalized the PMF as an official military arm. Its top leaders are known Iranian proxies, as are some of its largest and most capable militias.

The United States has been reticent to criticize or mitigate the rise of the Iranian-backed PMF within Iraqi security infrastructure due to the prioritization of the anti-Islamic State fight. In some cases, the US even appears to be praising them. In the most recent Operation Inherent Resolve press briefing, Maj. Gen. Robert White, the ground commander of coalition forces involved in Iraq, described the PMF as “the fourth cohort of the ISF that are sanctioned by the government of Iraq. And so they have been an integral part of the successes that the Iraqi Security Forces have had to date.”

The US has continued to emphasize the precedence of the anti-Islamic State fight. CENTCOM dismissed the engagement in Kirkuk as a “misunderstanding.” Maj. Gen. White encouraged dialogue and a refocus on “the defeat of our common enemy, ISIS, in Iraq.” The Islamic State’s territorial control has waned over the past year, but the self-declared caliphate retrains strategic locations in the Euphrates River Valley.

The clashes in Kirkuk have exposed rifts between Iraqi Kurdistan’s rival political parties: the Patriot Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The PUK reportedly permitted Baghdad to advance into Kirkuk, despite KDP dissent. The PUK and the Talabani family receive support from Iran, raising suspicion about a potential backroom deal to hand over the city to Iranian-aligned forces and undermine the KDP. Prominent Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Javed Zarif and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, have visited Iraqi Kurdistan recently to pay respects to Jalal Talabani, former president of Iraq and Talabani family patriarch. The PUK’s rival, the KDP, received the lionshare of credit for ushering in the Kurdish referendum.

Iranian-supported militias have praised the Peshmerga surrender, specifically crediting the PUK. Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a prominent Shiite militia complicit in the killing of American soldiers, released a statement praising the PUK for taking the “responsible position” and for not succumbing to the “personal and familial interests of the separatists.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Alexandra Gutowski is a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

US threatens to shoot down any Iraqi warplane targeting Kurds

October 16, 2017

US threatens to shoot down any Iraqi warplane targeting Kurds, DEBKAfile, October 16, 2017

Iraqi and Kurdish sources reported Monday that the US had warned the Al-Abadi government against deploying the Iraqi air force against Kurdish targets in the fighting which erupted around the oil town of Kirkuk Monday. The US Air Force would shoot the Iraqi planes down, Baghdad was warned. The US also informed the Iraqi government that its military offensive against the Kurds over Kirkuk constituted a flagrant violation of Clause 9 of the Iraqi constitution, as well as a breach of Iraqi-US agreements which prohibit the use of military force for resolving internal political disputes.

Iran-backed Iraqi ultimatum to Kurds to leave Kirkuk. First test for Trump’s threat to Rev Guards

October 14, 2017

Iran-backed Iraqi ultimatum to Kurds to leave Kirkuk. First test for Trump’s threat to Rev Guards, DEBKAfile, October 14, 2017

After Trump declared that the entire IRGC was guilty of terrorism, including all its agents and proxies – the Iraqi PMU militia would lay itself open to the definition of terrorists for attacking Kurdish forces, who are America’s frontline military ally in the war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

All eyes in the Middle East are watching to see how the Trump administration responds to such an attack if it takes place. Its non-response would be interpreted by Tehran as a license for its IRPG to keep going.

******************************

Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar Al-Abadi Saturday night, Oct. 14, gave the Kurdish Peshmerga an ultimatum to surrender the positions in the Kirkuk oil region they have held since pushing ISIS out three years ago, and also cancel the Kurdish Republic’s Sept. 25 independence vote.

The Kurdish troops were given until early Sunday to comply with those demands, in the face of heavily armed troops of the Iraqi army and Popular Mobilization Force (PMU), an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, massed around Kirkuk.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal exclusively that the Iraqi prime minister issued this ultimatum under heavy pressure from al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He placed the PMU at Abadi’s disposal and any arms he might need for an operation to fight the Kurds, should they defy the ultimatum. They stand against thousands of The KRG fighters deployed around Kirkuk.

Over the weekend, both sides beefed up their military strength in and around Iraq’s northern oil city. Iraq has deployed to Kirkuk the PMU as well as special operations units to face a Peshmerga force of 9,000 fighters.

Just hours before the deadline, a Peshmerga commander on the western front said Kurdish fighters had “taken all the necessary measures” and were “ready for a confrontation” if necessary.

American forces, who maintain a small military team in Kirkuk for carrying messages between the opposing camps, proposed a number of compromises, but they were all rejected by the Iraqi prime minister.

Washington also notified Baghdad that the US would not tolerate military aggression against Irbil, capital of the KRG, Dohuk or Sulaymaniyah, or military incursions of Kirkuk, only a small party of civilian officials.

It is not clear whether Abadi will heed Washington’s directives. However, DEBKAfile’s sources stress that President Donald Trump’s speech Friday night, laying out a new, tough strategy for Iran and its Revolutionary Guards,  lent a potential military clash over Kirkuk a new perspective beyond a local conflict.

After Trump declared that the entire IRGC was guilty of terrorism, including all its agents and proxies – the Iraqi PMU militia would lay itself open to the definition of terrorists for attacking Kurdish forces, who are America’s frontline military ally in the war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

All eyes in the Middle East are watching to see how the Trump administration responds to such an attack if it takes place. Its non-response would be interpreted by Tehran as a license for its IRPG to keep going.

ISIS’ Kirkuk raid spreads. US air force in action

October 22, 2016

ISIS’ Kirkuk raid spreads. US air force in action, DEBKAfile, October 22, 2016

kurdish_gen-_mariwan_mohammed_21-10-16Kurdish General. Mariwan Mohammed

The raid of Iraq’s northern oil city of Kirkuk launched by the Islamic State Friday began to spread Saturday, Oct. 22 to surrounding towns. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that ISIS fighters headed south from Kirkuk in two heads. One tried to enter Laylan, a town 21 km south of the oil city, which was defended by Kurdish Peshmerga and Turkman paramilitary forces; the second seized the crossroads of Rtes 2, 3 and 24 to sever Kirkuk from Baghdad.

When Kirkuk first came under attack, the Kurdish defenders still left there appealed for US air support against the Islamist invaders. The US air force went into action late Friday. They first targeted ISIS sniper positions on the town’s highest rooftops. Then, the next day US aircraft struck twin targets: the jihadist fighters storming Laylan and the fighters heading down the roads to the south of Kirkuk.

Nonetheless, up until Saturday pm, ISIS was still in control of at least five of the oil city’s neighborhoods as well as buildings in the town center, including government offices.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Peshmerga, according to our military sources, dispatched to Kirkuk their special counterterrorism unit to dislodge the raiders. Kurdish sources also warned that this city was only the first of a row of Iraqi towns still in ISIS sights. They added that they would not be surprised to find the Islamists heading out to strike European towns as well.

Iraqi and Kurdish sources have since Friday been throwing out high ISIS casualty figures and reporting that many were put to flight. They were attempting to play down the scale of the raid on Kirkuk.

In fact, our sources report that the Islamists found extra numbers and ammunition caches waiting for them in two places – sleeper cells in Kirkuk and local Sunni sympathizers.

The numbers of civilian casualties and refugees mounting since the onset of the Mosul operation are mounting, causing grave concern to the UN and international aid agencies.

DEBKAfile first reported on the ISIS raid of Kirkuk Friday.

No one doubted that the US-Iraqi-Kurdish offensive to liberate Mosul would be drawn out and fraught with unforeseen setbacks before the Islamic State was finally thrown out of its Iraqi capital. But on Oct. 21, five days into the Mosul operation, the ISIS terrorists landed their most severe blow, when Islamist fighters and suicide bombers suddenly hurled themselves on the Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk in a coordinated attack.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that taking advantage of a chance to catch the US, Iraqi and Kurdish generals leading the attack on Mosul unawares, the Islamist fighters were able to open a second front to the rear of the main battle arena against ISIS.

Kirkuk is some 175km southeast of Mosul and 230km from Baghdad. By hitting this important oil city, the terrorists came close to enough to menace the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government region and its capital, Irbil, and expose the Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting for Mosul.

Our military sources note that a large Peshmerga force of some 11,000 troops had been posted to secure the town and its oil fields, under the command of Gen. Mariwan Mohammed.

But then, on Wednesday, Oct. 19, the US-Iraqi-Kurdish joint command of the Mosul offensive decided that Kurdish reinforcements were necessary to provide the operation with greater impetus. The extra Peshmerga troops were accordingly ordered to set out from Khazar, 40 km east of Mosul, and join the coalition offensive.

However, what they missed, despite the mainly American spy satellites, drones and reconnaissance planes collecting intelligence, was an ISIS concentration clandestinely building up at Hawja, 57km east of Kirkuk. According to our military sources, some of the jihadists reported by the Western media to have turned tail on the run from Mosul had been gathering to the southeast, some 57km from Kirkuk. They stood ready to attack that town.

Their opportunity came when the large Kurdish group exited Kirkuk and headed out to Mosul. Kirkuk was left exposed without defenders.

Friday morning, the Islamic State launched its surprise attack on the defenseless oil city. Its fighters and suicide bombers slammed into four police stations, Kurdish security offices, residential neighborhoods and a power station to the north. Clashes continued during the day with unknown casualty figures on both sides.

At some point, the governor claimed control of the city was regained but residents reported the clashes continued.

ISIS said in a statement it had seized “half the city” and had also attacked the Dubiz power plant, killing all the security forces inside, but the claims were not possible to verify.