Posted tagged ‘Kurdistan’

Toward an independent Kurdistan

October 20, 2017

Toward an independent Kurdistan, Washington Times, James A. Lyons, October 19, 2017

Illustration on the strategic importance of an independent Kurdistan by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

Unfortunately, with the Obama and Muslim Brotherhood holdovers still in key positions in the National Security Council, State Department and Department of Defense, the U.S. position has been to back the Iranian Baghdad puppet regime.

[W]hen you consider that one of the key U.S. objectives in the Middle East is (or ought to be) to prevent Iranian regional hegemony, a staunch ally like the Kurds, who have fought with us to defeat the Islamic State, is exactly what we need in this volatile region. In addition, as a free and independent Kurdistan is key to preventing Iran from establishing a land bridge from Tehran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, the current U.S. position makes no sense. Further, should Iran be successful in establishing a land bridge to Lebanon, Tehran will be able far more readily to augment Hezbollah’s already formidable forces as a direct threat to Israel’s survival.

Besides providing verbal support for Kurdistan’s independence, we should take immediate action to establish a forward operating base in Irbil with its 13,000-foot runway, one of the longest in the world. We should plan to rotate a detachment of F-16s and A-10s in and out of the base. Additionally, such a move would complicate any plans by Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara for further aggressive action against Kurdistan. Such a move will not only enhance Israeli security but place added pressure on Iran, along with President Trump’s recent decision on refusing to recertify the unsigned nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

We need to face facts: The only true ally we have in the region today is Israel. A free and independent Kurdistan would clearly enhance the chances of achieving two of our joint, vital objectives in the Middle East — bolster Israel and add to our partners and allies in the region.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq held a referendum on independence on Sept. 25. It was overwhelmingly approved. This referendum, not surprisingly however, has precipitously raised tensions not only with Iraq but also with Turkey, Syria and Iran, all of which have large — and restive — Kurdish minorities.

Baghdad already has made moves to isolate the Kurdish region by banning all international flights from landing there and demanding a halt to all crude oil sales. And although Ankara has quarreled repeatedly with the Iranian puppet regime in Baghdad in recent years, the Turkish government late on Oct. 16 decided to close not only Turkish airspace to flights to and from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, but also to close the Irbil-Ceyan oil pipeline, which is the Kurds’ only source of revenue. Additionally, Turkish and Iraqi troops had held joint military exercises shortly after the Sept. 25 referendum vote.

In what may presage a new and violent phase in the break-up of Sykes-Picot Iraq, Baghdad moved aggressively on Oct. 16, sending Iraqi Army troops into the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Further, units of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Shiite paramilitary groups that receive equipment and training from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), were deployed alongside the Iraqi Army units south and west of Kirkuk. It is a city of a million people that lies just outside the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government territory. When the Iraqi Army deserted Kirkuk in 2014 in the face of the Islamic State onslaught, however, it was the Kurdish Peshmerga forces deployed there that kept the Kirkuk oil fields from falling into the Islamic State’s hands. They have declared that they are now not about to give up that territory. Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who is the commander of the IRGC Qods Force in charge of Iran’s foreign operations, arrived in Kurdistan on Oct. 15 for discussions — but only with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), not the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). He apparently presented Baghdad’s demands that the Kurdish Regional Government cancel the referendum results as a precondition for talks to resolve the current dispute. KRG officials led by President Masoud Barzani not only previously had rejected any such demands, but pledged to defend Kurdish-held territory in case of attack.

With Iranian-dominated Iraqi and Shiite militia forces now in control of Kirkuk, though, at least in part due to apparent PUK treachery, the region and its deeply divided factions may be poised on the brink of yet another explosion. According to reports, the KDP Peshmerga forces fought hard to avoid being pushed out of Kirkuk, but ultimately had to retreat when their ammunition ran out. Thousands of civilians and Peshmerga fighters fled toward Irbil and Sulaymaniyah.

Unfortunately, with the Obama and Muslim Brotherhood holdovers still in key positions in the National Security Council, State Department and Department of Defense, the U.S. position has been to back the Iranian Baghdad puppet regime.

The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 is dead. The U.S. must recognize the realities on the ground. The former Iraq, like the former Syria, has always been an artificial construct, cobbled together by European powers in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Absent the brute force of a dictator, these entities simply cannot hold together against the clashing centrifugal forces of their feuding ethnic, sectarian and tribal components.

Further, when you consider that one of the key U.S. objectives in the Middle East is (or ought to be) to prevent Iranian regional hegemony, a staunch ally like the Kurds, who have fought with us to defeat the Islamic State, is exactly what we need in this volatile region. In addition, as a free and independent Kurdistan is key to preventing Iran from establishing a land bridge from Tehran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, the current U.S. position makes no sense. Further, should Iran be successful in establishing a land bridge to Lebanon, Tehran will be able far more readily to augment Hezbollah’s already formidable forces as a direct threat to Israel’s survival.

Besides providing verbal support for Kurdistan’s independence, we should take immediate action to establish a forward operating base in Irbil with its 13,000-foot runway, one of the longest in the world. We should plan to rotate a detachment of F-16s and A-10s in and out of the base. Additionally, such a move would complicate any plans by Baghdad, Tehran and Ankara for further aggressive action against Kurdistan. Such a move will not only enhance Israeli security but place added pressure on Iran, along with President Trump’s recent decision on refusing to recertify the unsigned nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

We need to face facts: The only true ally we have in the region today is Israel. A free and independent Kurdistan would clearly enhance the chances of achieving two of our joint, vital objectives in the Middle East — bolster Israel and add to our partners and allies in the region.

• James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

“Treason” In Turkey: Asking for Peace

February 14, 2016

“Treason” In Turkey: Asking for Peace by Uzay Bulut

February 14, 2016 at 5:00 am

Source: “Treason” In Turkey: Asking for Peace

  • The Turkish state authorities have made it clear that calling for an end to state violence in Turkey’s Kurdish regions is “treason.” This means that in Turkey, requesting peace and political equality between Kurds and Turks is illegal.
  • The 1128 original signatories of the “Academics for Peace” declaration have been subjected to sustained attacks and threats from the Turkish government and nationalist groups. In the week after the publication of the declaration, at least 33 academics were detained by police. Some have lost their jobs. Associate Professor Battal Odabasi from Istanbul Aydin University, for instance, was fired for supporting the petition. At least 29 academics have been suspended from their jobs at universities.

On January 11, 2016, a group of academics and researchers from Turkey and abroad called “Academics for Peace” signed and issued a declaration entitled, “We will not be a party to this crime.” In it, they criticized the Turkish government for its recent curfews and massacres in Kurdish districts, and demanded an end to violence against Kurds and a return to peace talks.

“We declare that we will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state,” the declaration said.

In total, 2212 academics and researchers from Turkey, and 2279 from abroad, signed their names onto the declaration.

Some of the signatories of the “Academics for Peace” petition in Turkey pose in front of a banner reading, “We will not be a party to this crime.” The 1128 original signatories of the declaration have been subjected to sustained attacks and threats from the Turkish government and nationalist groups.

The Turkish President and PM immediately targeted the academics who signed the declaration. On January 12, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said,

“Unfortunately, those fake intellectuals say that the state is carrying out a massacre. Hey you, fake intellectuals! You are dark people. You are not enlightened. You are dark and ignorant to the point that you do not even know where the southeastern or eastern regions are [in Turkey].

“Today we are faced with the treason of the so-called intellectuals, most of whom get their salaries from the state and carry the ID card of this state in their pockets.

“You are either by the side of the nation and the state or by the side of the terrorist organization. We will not get permission from those so-called academics. They should know their place.”

Immediately after the speech, Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YOK) also issued a statement: “The declaration issued by a group of academics that describes our state’s ongoing struggle against terror in the southeast as ‘massacre and slaughter’ has put our entire academic world under suspicion. … This declaration cannot be associated with academic freedom. Providing the security of citizens is the primary responsibility of the state,” it said, adding that all rectors and an inter-university council would soon meet to discuss the issue.

Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu also joined in, saying, “It is an irrational declaration. They [the academics] will be ashamed when they read it once more. It cannot be evaluated within the scope of freedom of expression.”

Ever since, the academics have been under serious political, legal and social pressure. The 1128 original signatories have been subjected to sustained attacks and threats from the Turkish government and nationalist groups as well as double investigations — administrative investigations by the universities they work for, as well as legal investigations by state prosecutors.

They are being prosecuted for “insulting the Turkish nation, the state of the republic of Turkey, Turkey’s parliament, government and judicial organs” (Turkish penal code: Article 301) and for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” (Anti-terror law: Article 7).

In the week after the publication of the declaration, at least 33 academics were detained, and then released after prosecutors took their testimonies.

At least 29 academics have been suspended from their jobs at universities until their investigations are finalized.

Some have actually lost their jobs. Associate Professor Battal Odabasi from Istanbul Aydin University, for instance, was fired for supporting the declaration. Odabasi was first exposed to an investigation by the university and was told to withdraw his signature. When he did not, he was dismissed. “So they essentially told us to choose between our bread and our honor,” said Odabasi. “I chose my honor.”

Some pro-government newspapers also targeted the signatories. The newspaper Yeni Akit, for instance, wrote: “This is the full list of the academics that signed that declaration of treason.”

The newspaper continued telling the authorities to “Fire these men!” and calling the academics “perverts with diplomas,” “whores who call Muslims ‘sons of bitches.'” The newspaper also called the academics “gay-loving,” and “Armenian-lovers.” The academics sought legal help and demanded that the reports that included threats and insults be blocked to the public. An Ankara criminal court rejected the demand. The court said that the reports and expressions were within the “freedom of the press.”

Several universities across Turkey have on their official websites showed extremely negative reactions to the academics who signed the declaration; some even called them “traitors” or “terrorism supporters” and emphasized that the universities support the military operations of the state.

The rectorate of Abdullah Gul University in Kayseri, for instance, demanded that Professor Bulent Tanju, who signed the declaration, resign. The head of the Turkish nationalists in the city affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) referred to Tanju and other signatories as “barking dogs,” and in a public declaration, threatened him. The prosecutors launched a criminal investigation against Tanju, but not against those who threatened him. His alleged “crime” is “inciting the population to enmity or hatred” and “openly insulting state institutions.” (Turkish penal code – Articles 216 and 301)

Some academics withdrew their signatures after receiving threats on campuses or on social media.

The offices of two academics — Kemal Inal and Betul Yarar — from the Department of Communication at Ankara’s Gazi University, were marked with red crosses by Turkish nationalist students. Notes saying that “We do not want the academics that support the PKK at our university” were left at their doors. Inal said he withdrew his signature after violent threats from students and even a colleague.

The newspaper Agos reported that academics in smaller cities have been under enormous pressure from their universities as well as the public. The academics in Samsun, for instance, had to lock themselves in their homes for a while. Those in Yalova say they are scared of using public transportation and those in Bolu say they are scared of parking their cars in secluded places.

Some of the academics were also targeted by local media. Arin Gul Yeniaras, a lawyer offering legal support to the threatened academics, told Agos that “a local newspaper in the town of Yalova, for instance, published the names and photos of the signatories, and made remarks such as ‘The rector is still silent; the citizens are uneasy’ in an attempt to make the rector take action against the academics. After that, the rector declared that the university launched an investigation against the signatories.”

Ramazan Kurt, a lecturer of philosophy at Erzurum’s Ataturk University, sought help from the Erzurum branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD).

“Two people raided my room, and threatened me,” Kurt told Agos.

“On the same day, the Grey Wolves [a Turkish nationalist organization] made a call at the university to stage a march against me. I filed a criminal complaint against them and demanded security. It was on that day that I learned that I was suspended from my job. They organized a massive march, saying ‘We do not want a terrorist lecturer at our school.’ I also learned that they came to the door of my office and swore the oath of the Grey Wolves. No one from the university called me to support me.”

On January 15, Kurt was detained and interrogated at the anti-terror branch of the local police station. His lawyer said he was accused of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” “inciting the population to enmity or hatred” and “publishing the documents of a [terrorist] organization.” He was released on the same day, but banned from travelling.

In an interview with Dicle News Agency (DIHA), Kurt said that when he asked the Erzurum police for a security guard after the attacks, “a police officer there threatened me, and said: ‘If you know that signer, I will shoot him in the head’.”

“After I saw the attitudes of my colleagues,” he said, “there was no point in staying.” As he had no safety, he said, he left the province.

The detentions of academics continue. On January 29, five academics in the province of Bolu, who signed the petition in solidarity with three colleagues who had been taken into custody earlier for signing the declaration, were also detained after house raids. Their homes, cars and offices were searched, and the copies of their computers and telephones as well as some of their documents were seized by police. The academics were released after the police took their testimonies.

“The academics who exercised their freedom of thought and expression by signing this text that states a wish for peace have been targeted and exposed to insults and threats for days,” said a recent press release from the academics.

“As of January 18, investigations have been launched against 1128 signatories in accordance with the Turkish penal code and the anti-terror law.

“Among our colleagues there are those who have been detained, banned from going abroad, exposed to administrative investigations, fired or suspended from their jobs. We find all of these things unjust and unacceptable.”

In the meantime, the journalist Nurcan Baysal, based in Diyarbakir, reported on January 22 that the bodies of two Kurds, Isa Oran and Mesut Seviktek — murdered during a curfew and their bodies left in the street for 29 days — were finally allowed to be retrieved.

Oran’s father, Mehmet Oran said,

“I went to the morgue. My son’s head was not recognizable. It had been burnt — as if a chemical substance had been spilled over it. He had been disemboweled; his intestines were lying outside his body. The rest of my son’s body was all in pieces as if chunks of meat had been ripped out of him by an animal. They had torn my son into pieces. I was only able to recognize my son from his arm.”

Mesut’s brother, Ihsan Seviktek, said:

“My brother had already fallen a martyr with bullets to his head and chest. But they [Turkish soldiers or police] then shot hundreds of additional bullets into him. His face became unrecognizable. Why mistreat a dead person to such an extent? The Kurdish issue will not be resolved like this.”

As the Turkish state authorities and university administrations accuse intellectuals of being “traitors,” scores of Kurds have been murdered by Turkish armed forces in Kurdish districts under curfew. Dead bodies of many Kurds are still rotting in the streets and waiting to be retrieved.

At least 224 Kurdish civilians lost their lives between August 16, 2015 and February 5, 2016, according to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV). Forty-two were children, 31 were women, and 30 were over the age 60. The districts of Sur, Cizre and Silopi have been under an uninterrupted military siege and assaults for two months. Eight people were killed by security forces shooting arbitrarily in streets close to curfew zones during peaceful protests against the curfews.

The Turkish state authorities have made it clear that calling for an end to state violence in Turkey’s Kurdish regions is “treason.” This means that in Turkey, requesting peace and political equality between Kurds and Turks is illegal. Apparently, the only way to be a “Turkish patriot” or “a good citizen of Turkey” is openly to support the murders of Kurds — or at least be silent about them.

Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.

A Strategy to Defeat Islamic Theo-fascism

January 7, 2016

A Strategy to Defeat Islamic Theo-fascism, American ThinkerG. Murphy Donovan, January 7, 2016

Surely, whatever passed for American foreign or military policy in the past three decades is not working. Just as clearly, in case anyone keeps score these days, the dark side of Islam is ascendant at home and abroad. What follows here is a catalogue of policy initiatives that might halt the spread of Islamic fascism and encourage religious reform in the Ummah.

Some observers believe that the Muslim problem is a matter of life and death. Be assured that the need for Islamic reform is much more important than either. The choices for Islam are the same as they are for Palestine Arabs; behave or be humbled. Europe may still have a Quisling North and a Vichy South; but Russia, China, and even America, at heart, are still grounded by national survival instincts – and Samuel Colt.

Call a spade a spade

The threat is Islam, both kinetic and passive aggressive factions. If “moderate” Islam is real, then that community needs to step up and assume responsibility for barbaric terror lunatics and immigrants/refugees alike. Neither America nor Europe has solutions to the Islamic dystopia; civic incompetence, strategic illiteracy, migrants, poverty, religious schisms, or galloping irredentism. The UN and NATO have no remedies either. Islamism is an Ummah, Arab League, OIC problem to solve. Absent moral or civic conscience, unreformed Islam deserves no better consideration than any other criminal cult.

Western Intelligence agencies must stop cooking the books too. The West is at war and the enemy is clearly the adherents of a pernicious ideology. A global war against imperial Islam might be declared, just as angry Islam has declared war on civilization.  A modus vivendi might be negotiated only after the Ummah erects a universal barrier between church and state globally. Islam, as we know it, is incompatible with democracy, civility, peace, stability, and adult beverages.

Oxymoronic “Islamic” states need to be relegated to the dustbin of history. If the Muslim world cannot or will not mend itself, Islamism, like the secular fascism of the 20th Century, must be defeated, humbled in detail. Sooner is better.

Answer the Ayatollahs

Recent allied concessions to Tehran may prove to be a bridge too far. If the Persian priests do not abide by their nuclear commitments, two red lines might be drawn around Israel. Firstly, the ayatollahs should be put on notice, publicly, that any attack against Israel would be considered an attack against America — and met with massive Yankee retaliation. Secondly, any future cooperation with NATO or America should be predicated on an immediate cessation of clerical hate speech and so-called fatwas, those arbitrary death sentences.

Clerical threats to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth” and “death to America” injunctions are designed to stimulate jihad and terror globally. The only difference between a Shia ayatollah and a Sunni imam in this regard these days seems to be the torque in their head threads.

Ostracize the Puppeteers

Strategic peril does not emanate from Sunni tacticians like Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, or Abu Bakr al-Baghadadi. Nor does the real threat begin with or end with al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezb’allah, Hamas, or the Islamic State. Lethal threat comes, instead, on four winds: toxic culture, religious politics, fanatic fighters, and furtive finance, all of which originate with Muslim state sponsors. The most prominent of these are Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.

Put aside for a moment the Saudi team that brought down the Twin Towers in New York. Consider instead, the House of Saud as the most egregious exporter of Salifism (aka Wahabbism) doctrine, clerics, imams, and mosques from which ultra-irredentist ideologies are spread. The Saudis are at once the custodians of Islam’s sacredshrines and at the same time the world’s most decadent, corrupt, and duplicitous hypocrites. Imam Baghdadi is correct about two things: the venality of elites in Washington and Riyadh. The House of Saud, an absolutist tribal monarchy, does not have the moral standing to administer “holy” sites of any description — Mecca, Medina, or Disneyland.

The cozy relationship between Europe, the European Union, and Arabia can be summarized with a few words; oil, money, arms sales, and base rights. This near-sighted blend of Mideast obscenities has reached its sell-by date. The “white man’s burden” should have expired when Edward Said vacated New York for paradise.

Jettison Turkey and Pakistan

What Saudi Arabia is to toxic ideology in North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan are to perfidy in the Levant and South Asia. Turkey and Pakistan are Islam’s most obvious and persistent grifters. Turkey supports the Islamic State and other Sunni terror groups with a black market oil racket. Pakistan supports the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS with sanctuary and tolerance of the world’s largest opium garden. Oil and drug monies from Arabia, Turkey, and South Asia are financing the global jihad. Turkey also facilitates the migration of Muslims west to Europe while sending Islamist fighters and weapons south to Syria and Iraq.

With the advent of Erdogan and his Islamist AKP, Turkey has morphed into NATO’s Achilles Heel, potentially a fatal flaw.  Turkey needs to be drummed out of NATO until secular comity returns to Ankara. Pakistan needs to be restrained, too, with sanctions until it ceases to provide refuge for terrorists. Pakistani troops harassing India could be more prudently redeployed to exterminate jihadists.

Sanctions against Russia and Israel are a study in moral and political fatuity whilst Arabs and Muslims are appeased midst a cultural sewer of geo-political crime and human rights abuses. If NATO’s eastern flank needs to be anchored in trust and dependability, Russia, Kurdistan, or both, would make better allies than Turkey. Ignoring Turkish perfidy to protect ephemeral base rights confuses tactical necessity with strategic sufficiency.

Recognize Kurdistan

Aside from Israel, Kurdistan might be the most enlightened culture in the Mideast. The Kurds are also the largest ethnic group in the world not recognized as a state. While largely Muslim, the Kurds, unlike most of the Ummah, appreciate the virtues of religious diversity and women’s rights. Indeed, Kurdish women fight alongside their men against Turkish chauvinism and Sunni misogyny with equal aplomb. For too long, the Kurds have been patronized by Brussels and Washington.

While Kurdish fighters engage ISIS and attempt to control the Turkish oil black market, Ankara uses American manufactured NATO F-16s to bomb Kurds in Turkey and Syria. Turkish ground forces now occupy parts of Iraq too. In eastern Turkey, Ergdogan’s NATO legions use ISIS as an excuse for bookend genocide, a cleansing of Kurds that might rival the Armenian Christian genocide (1915-1917).

195876_5_Kurdish angel of death

All the while, American strategic amateurs argue for a “no-fly” zone in contested areas south of Turkey. Creating a no-fly zone is the kind of operational vacuity we have come to expect from American politicians and generals. Such a stratagem would foil Kurdish efforts to flank ISIS and allow the Erdogan jihad, arms, and oil rackets to flourish. A no-fly zone is a dangerous ploy designed to provoke Russia, not protect Muslim “moderates.”

Putin, Lavrov, and the Russians have it right this time; Turkish and Erdogan family subterfuges are lethal liabilities, not assets.

Washington and European allies have been redrawing the map in Eastern Europe, North Africa, South Asia, and the Mideast since the end of WWII. The time has come to put Kurdistan on the map too. Kurdistan is a unique and exemplary case of reformed or enlightened Islam; indeed, a nation that could serve as a model for the Muslim world.  If base rights are a consideration, Kurdistan would be an infinitely more dependable ally than Turkey or any corrupt tribal autocracy in Arabia. America has a little in common with desert dictators — and fewer genuine friends there either. Indeed, at the moment America is allied with the worst of Islam.

Create New Alliances

NATO, like the European Union, has become a parody of itself. Absent a threat like the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact, Brussels has taken to justifying itself by meddling in East Europe and resuscitating a Cold War with the Kremlin. Indeed, having divided Yugoslavia, NATO now expands to the new Russian border with reckless abandon; in fact, fanning anti-Russian flames now with neo-Nazi cohorts in former Yugoslavia, Georgia, and Ukraine.

NATO support for the Muslims of one-time Yugoslavia is of a piece with support for Islamic troublemakers in Chechnya and China too. Throughout, we are led to believe that jihad Uighurs and caliphate Chechens are freedom fighters. Beslan, Boston, Paris, and now San Bernardino put the lie to any notion that Islamists are “victims” (or heroes). Indeed, the Boston Marathon bombing might have been prevented had Washington a better relationship with Moscow.

Truth is, America has more in common with Russia and China these days than we do with any number of traditional European Quislings. Indeed, it seems that Europe and America can’t take yes for an answer.

The Cold War ideological or philosophical argument has been won. Moscow and Beijing have succumbed to market capitalism. Islamism, in stark contrast, is now a menace to Russian, Chinese, and American secular polities alike. The logic of a cooperative or unified approach to a common enemy seems self-evident. America, China, and Russia, at least on issues like toxic Islam, is a match made in Mecca.

The late great contest with Marxist Russia and China was indeed a revolution without guns. Now the parties to that epic Cold War struggle may have to join forces to suppress a theo-fascist movement that, like its Nazi predecessor, will not be defeated without guns. The West is at war again, albeit in slow motion. Withal, questions of war are not rhetorical. Saying that you are not at war does not make it so. Once declared, by one party or the other, the only relevant question about war is who wins and who loses. Losers do not make the future.

If America and Europe were as committed to Judeo/Christian secular values as Islamists are committed to a sick religious culture, then the war against pernicious Islam would have been won decades ago. Or as Jack Kennedy once put it: “Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.

Trump Footnote

Donald Trump made several policy suggestions on the Islamism issue, one on immigration, the other on Mideast oil. On the former, he suggests a hiatus on Muslim immigration until America develops a plan or reliable programs to vet migrants. On Arab oil, he suggests, given the lives and treasure spent liberating Kuwait and Iraqi oil fields, America should have held those resources in trust and use oil revenues to finance the war against jihad, however long that takes. The problem with both Trump ideas is that they come perilously close to common sense, an American instinct in short supply these days.

 

Report: Iraq sends back Kurdistan-bound coalition planes to Turkey, Kuwait

November 9, 2015

Report: Iraq sends back Kurdistan-bound coalition planes to Turkey, Kuwait

ANKARA

Monday,November 9 2015

Source: Report: Iraq sends back Kurdistan-bound coalition planes to Turkey, Kuwait – MIDEAST

Iraqi Defense Ministry has sent back two aircrafts carrying weapons to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to Turkey and Kuwait after detaining them for a few days, the Doğan News Agency (DHA) reported.

“Upon an order by the Iraqi Armed Forces Command, the two planes which were carrying weapons to Kurdistan have been deported and sent back with their entire cargo to their bases in Kuwait and Turkey after being withheld at Baghdad International Airport for a few days,” DHA quoted a written statement released by the Iraqi Defense Ministry on Nov. 9.

As of Nov. 2, an English-language Iranian news agency, the Fars News Agency (FNA), reported that the Iraqi government seized two planes of the member states of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that were carrying weapons to the Kurdistan Region without prior coordination or information-sharing with Baghdad.

“The inspection committee in Baghdad International Airport has found a huge number of rifles equipped with silencers, as well as light and mid-sized weapons,” the agency quoted the head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Commission, Hakem al-Zameli, as saying at the time.

Zameli told the agency that a Swedish and a Canadian airplane were going to fly to the same region but were seized after arms cargo was discovered.

Turkish officials have not yet been available for comment on the news reports.

November/09/2015

ISIS Threatens Obama With ‘New Lesson’ in Beheading Video

October 31, 2015

ISIS Threatens Obama With ‘New Lesson’ in Beheading Video, Newsmax, Sandy Fitzgerald, October 31, 2015

(Video at the link. Has Obama recently decided that the Islamic State is a greater threat than climate change?– DM)

A horrifying new 15-minute video appears to show Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists beheading four captured Kurdish Peshmerga fighters — and delivering a bold warning to President Barack Obama.

The video claims to be the ISIS response to a Delta Force-Kurdish raid in northern Iraq last week that cost American Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler his life.

“Obama, you have learned a new lesson,” a masked terrorist warns Obama in what sounds like an American accent. “Six of the soldiers of the caliphate faced 400 of your children; they killed and injured them by Allah’s grace.”

The warning was delivered before the man executes one of the prisoners, reports CNN, and the other three prisoners are also beheaded by the video’s end. Arabic text also appears onscreen, translating as “Peshmerga soldiers that Americans came to rescue.”

The video was released online Friday, and earlier in the clip, ISIS claims to show the aftermath of the raid, in which Kurdish, U.S., and Iraqi forces rescue 70 hostages from an ISIS prison in Hawija, located in Kirkuk, a province located in northern Iraq.

CNN reports that those who were set free included 20 of the Iraqi Security Forces, local residents and several ISIS fighters accused of spying. None of the hostages were Kurds.

As of Saturday morning, there had not been an official response issued from the White House on the video or the threat. But in Kurdistan, regional government spokesman Dindar Zebari told CNN that “ISIS respects no form of human rights. Our message to them is that we will finish them.”

But Kurdistan will not kill ISIS prisoners in response, Zebari said.

“We hold 215 ISIS prisoners and we treat them according to international human rights laws,” he said. “We have also freed 85 prisoners who had been suspected of association with ISIS. We do not kill our prisoners.”

The Kurdistan regional government said that more than 20 ISIS fighters were killed in last week’s raid, and six more were captured.

The Kurdish Peshmerga, which protects an autonomous region in northern Iraq, has been fighting against ISIS and its push to take Iraq and Syria and create a caliphate.

ISIS earlier this week said the Delta Force-Kurdish raid, called for by the Kurds to rescue Peshmerga fighters, was a failure.

The man who issued the threat does not appear to be the infamous “Jihadi John,” the English-speaking jihadist who has appeared in several other ISIS beheading videos.

The terrorist, whose real name is believed to be Mohammed Emwazi, is considered to be a priority target after killing American, Western, and Japanese hostages.

Meanwhile, two Syrian activists have also been killed in recent days in the Turkish town of Urfa, and their deaths are being blamed on ISIS.

According to the groups Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and Eye on Homeland, activists Ibrahim Abdul Qadir and Faris Humadi the men who were shot and beheaded. ISIS has not yet claimed responsibility for their deaths.

Qadir and Humadi worked for Eye on Homeland, a Syrian media group that reports on the civil war, and Qadar also was a founding member of the Raqqa group, which posts photos, video, and other information online from the Raqqa province in Syria.

Turkish Military Carry Out Airstrikes on PKK Targets in Iraq

October 11, 2015

Turkish Military Carry Out Airstrikes on PKK Targets in Iraq

13:07 11.10.2015

(updated 13:26 11.10.2015)

Source: Turkish Military Carry Out Airstrikes on PKK Targets in Iraq

The Turkish military bombed targets of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey and Iraq during airstrikes on Sunday.

PKK shelters and gun positions were destroyed during the airstrikes in areas of northern Iraq. At least 14 PKK fighters were killed in the Lice area of southeast Turkey, the military statement said.

The airstrikes were carried out a day after deadly twin bomb blasts in Ankara.Tensions in Turkey escalated in mid-summer when the country launched a military campaign against PKK in northern Iraq, after the militant group claimed responsibility for the murders of two Turkish police officers who they say had aligned themselves with Islamic State.

On Monday, Turkish Interior Minister Selami Altinok said that the Turkish security forces have killed more than 2,000 PKK militants since July.

PKK seeks to create a Kurdish state in parts of Turkey and Iraq. The organization is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and NATO.

 

US Defense Secy to visit Iraqi Kurdistan after Baghdad

July 24, 2015

US Defense Secy to visit Iraqi Kurdistan after Baghdad, DEBKAfile, July 24, 2015

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter plans to visit Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Republic of Iraq, before he leaves Iraq. He will hold talks with the KRG president Massoud Barazani and other Kurish leaders. DEBKAfile: The main purpose of his talks in Irbil is to determine whether the US will provide the peshmerga with heavy weapons, including warplanes and combat helicopters, for grappling with Islamic State’s assaults on their doors. Obama has until now turned down Kurdish requests for this hardware, mainly because of Iranian and Iraqi objections. The Kurds maintain that their army is the only effective force fighting in the field capable of routing ISIS.

Kurdistan: More Like Israel, Less Like Iraq

December 25, 2014

Kurdistan: More Like Israel, Less Like Iraq, Gatestone Institute, Lawrence A. Franklin, December 25, 2014

It is a society that rejects religious zealotry. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim and one can hear the five-times-a-day Muslim call to prayer, but it is muted and ignored by most.

Like Israel, Kurdistan is more democratic than any of its neighbors. Like Israel, Kurdistan is surrounded by enemies that wish it did not exist. Like Israel, Kurdistan looks West. And like Israel, Kurdistan has maintained an internal equilibrium though all the world betrays it.

Iraqi Kurdistan is full of surprises. Probably, the most unexpected discovery is how normal life is in its capital city, Erbil. Despite a late summer scare by Islamic State [IS] military gains north of Mosul and the threat of suicide bomber attacks, the social discipline of Kurdistan’s citizens is admirable. There is a relaxed state of tension. It is “business as usual.”

There is also a sense of optimism, pervasive and infectious. Entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. While there was an exodus of foreign businessmen after the initial territorial gains by the IS, foreign investors are filtering back. The Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] has already drawn up plans for large-scale projects to improve the infrastructure. Heavy-duty construction vehicles are everywhere. The most visible project is the beltway being built around the city.

853An aerial view of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, featuring the ancient Erbil Citadel in the center. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Jan Kurdistani)

Political pluralism has come to the Kurdish north as well. While the Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] respectively remain the one-two political powerhouses, they now have plenty of company. No one party dominates the parliament. There is plenty of horse-trading on issues, fleeting coalitions, and new political personalities are being heard. Nevertheless, the most influential and respected leaders still come from the Barzani extended family, which run the KDP. The late Mustafa Barzani (1903-1979) is revered as the warrior-godfather of modern Kurdistan.

Kurds, for the most part, are a welcoming lot. The methodical and rapid settlement of tens of thousands of refugees from IS-controlled Iraq required bold leadership by the Barzani-led government and especially from the Catholic hierarchy of Kurdistan. This success also reflects the compassion of a self-confident people. The population of the Dohok region, for example has doubled due to the influx of refugees. There is no observable tension between the newcomers and the population of the host country. Despite the inveterate resentment of the excesses of past Arab regimes, Kurdistan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. It has become even more so with the emigration from other parts of Iraq of Turkmen, Yezidis, and Christian Assyrians and Arabs. It is also a society that rejects religious zealotry. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslim and one can hear the five-times-a-day Muslim call to prayer, but it is muted and ignored by most.

Men, mostly, walk on the streets of Erbil, Dohok, and Zako, especially at night. Kurdistan is not, however, a society that represses women. There are many in parliament, and they are outspoken on the issue of violence to females in Kurdish society. At one conference in mid-November, at least half of the speakers were women prominent in Kurdistan. Women military volunteers are widely admired. The Kurdish media celebrates the Kurdish Peshmerga‘s female fighters. One woman — a veteran of the fierce battle to save the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane (near Turkey’s border) from an IS takeover — who recently visited Erbil, was received as a national hero. Female Yezidis who have escaped after torture by IS operatives are deeply admired too.

Zako, once the center of Kurdistan’s Jewish population, still invites back descendants of those who long ago left for Zion. Zako’s isolated villages are the wild west of Kurdistan. Its stark beauty against a ring of mountain chains may become a tourist magnet both for its ancient historical attractions and recreational possibilities.

For all of the above reasons, Kurdistan reminds one of Israel. Like Israel, Kurdistan is not dominated by the Arab, nor by Islam. Like Israel, Kurdistan is more democratic than any of its neighbors. Like Israel, Kurdistan is surrounded by enemies that wish it did not exist. Like Israel, Kurdistan looks West. And like Israel, Kurdistan has maintained an internal equilibrium though all the world betrays it.

Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk

October 7, 2014

Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk, Stratfor, Reva Bhalla, October 7, 2014

Turkey cannot be comfortable with the idea that Kirkuk is in the hands of the Iraqi Kurds unless Ankara is assured exclusive rights over that energy [oil] and the ability to extinguish any oil-fueled ambitions of Kurdish independence.

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

In June 1919, aboard an Allied warship en route to Paris, sat Damat Ferid Pasha, the Grand Vizier of a crumbling Ottoman Empire. The elderly statesman, donning an iconic red fez and boasting an impeccably groomed mustache, held in his hands a memorandum that he was to present to the Allied powers at the Quai d’Orsay. The negotiations on postwar reparations started five months earlier, but the Ottoman delegation was prepared to make the most of its tardy invitation to the talks. As he journeyed across the Mediterranean that summer toward the French shore, Damat Ferid mentally rehearsed the list of demands he would make to the Allied powers during his last-ditch effort to hold the empire together.

He began with a message, not of reproach, but of inculpability: “Gentlemen, I should not be bold enough to come before this High Assembly if I thought that the Ottoman people had incurred any responsibility in the war that has ravaged Europe and Asia with fire and sword.” His speech was followed by an even more defiant memorandum, denouncing any attempt to redistribute Ottoman land to the Kurds, Greeks and Armenians, asserting: “In Asia, the Turkish lands are bounded on the south by the provinces of Mosul and Diyarbakir, as well as a part of Aleppo as far as the Mediterranean.” When Damat Ferid’s demands were presented in Paris, the Allies were in awe of the gall displayed by the Ottoman delegation. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George regarded the presentation as a “good joke,” while U.S. President Woodrow Wilson said he had never seen anything more “stupid.” They flatly rejected Damat Ferid’s apparently misguided appeal — declaring that the Turks were unfit to rule over other races, regardless of their common Muslim identity — and told him and his delegation to leave. The Western powers then proceeded, through their own bickering, to divide the post-Ottoman spoils.

Under far different circumstances today, Ankara is again boldly appealing to the West to follow its lead in shaping policy in Turkey’s volatile Muslim backyard. And again, Western powers are looking at Turkey with incredulity, waiting for Ankara to assume responsibility for the region by tackling the immediate threat of the Islamic State with whatever resources necessary, rather than pursuing a seemingly reckless strategy of toppling the Syrian government. Turkey’s behavior can be perplexing and frustrating to Western leaders, but the country’s combination of reticence in action and audacity in rhetoric can be traced back to many of the same issues that confronted Istanbul in 1919, beginning with the struggle over the territory of Mosul.

The Turkish Fight for Mosul

Under the Ottoman Empire, the Mosul vilayet stretched from Zakho in southeastern Anatolia down along the Tigris River through Dohuk, Arbil, Alqosh, Kirkuk, Tuz Khormato and Sulaimaniyah before butting up against the western slopes of the Zagros Mountains, which shape the border with Iran. This stretch of land, bridging the dry Arab steppes and the fertile mountain valleys in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been a locus of violence long before the Islamic State arrived. The area has been home to an evolving mix of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyro-Chaldeans and Jews, while Turkish and Persian factions and the occasional Western power, whether operating under a flag or a corporate logo, continue to work in vain to eke out a demographic makeup that suits their interests.

mosul-vilayet

At the time of the British negotiation with the Ottomans over the fate of the Mosul region, British officers touring the area wrote extensively about the ubiquity of the Turkish language, noting that “Turkish is spoken all along the high road in all localities of any importance.” This fact formed part of Turkey’s argument that the land should remain under Turkish sovereignty. Even after the 1923 signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, in which Turkey renounced its rights to Ottoman lands, the Turkish government still held out a claim to the Mosul region, fearful that the Brits would use Kurdish separatism to further weaken the Turkish state. Invoking the popular Wilsonian principle of self-determination, the Turkish government asserted to the League of Nations that most of the Kurds and Arabs inhabiting the area preferred to be part of Turkey anyway. The British countered by asserting that their interviews with locals revealed a prevailing preference to become part of the new British-ruled Kingdom of Iraq.

The Turks, in no shape to bargain with London and mired in a deep internal debate over whether Turkey should forego these lands and focus instead on the benefits of a downsized republic, lost the argument and were forced to renounce their claims to the Mosul territory in 1925. As far as the Brits and the French were concerned, the largely Kurdish territory would serve as a vital buffer space to prevent the Turks from eventually extending their reach from Asia Minor to territories in Mesopotamia, Syria and Armenia. But the fear of Turkish expansion was not the only factor informing the European strategy to keep northern Iraq out of Turkish hands.

The Oil Factor

Since the days of Herodotus and Nebuchadnezzar, there have been stories of eternal flames arising from the earth of Baba Gurgur near the town of Kirkuk. German explorer and cartographer Carsten Niebuhr wrote in the 18th century: “A place called Baba Gurgur is above all remarkable because the earth is so hot that eggs and meat can be boiled here.” The flames were in fact produced by the natural gas and naphtha seeping through cracks in the rocks, betraying the vast quantities of crude oil lying beneath the surface. London wasted little time in calling on geologists from Venezuela, Mexico, Romania and Indochina to study the land and recommend sites for drilling. On Oct. 14, 1927, the fate of Kirkuk was sealed: A gusher rising 43 meters (around 140 feet) erupted from the earth, dousing the surrounding land with some 95,000 barrels of crude oil for 10 days before the well could be capped. With oil now part of the equation, the political situation in Kirkuk became all the more flammable.

The British mostly imported Sunni Arab tribesmen to work the oil fields, gradually reducing the Kurdish majority and weakening the influence of the Turkmen minority in the area. The Arabization project was given new energy when the Arab Baath Socialist Party came to power through a military coup in 1968. Arabic names were given to businesses, neighborhoods, schools and streets, while laws were adjusted to pressure Kurds to leave Kirkuk and transfer ownership of their homes and lands to Arabs. Eviction tactics turned ghastly in 1988 under Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign, during which chemical weapons were employed against the Kurdish population. The Iraqi government continued with heavy-handed tactics to Arabize the territory until the collapse of the Baathist regime in 2003. Naturally, revenge was a primary goal as Kurdish factions worked quickly to repopulate the region with Kurds and drive the Arabs out.

ethnic-composition-of-kirkuk

Even as Kirkuk, its oil-rich fields and a belt of disputed territories stretching between Diyala and Nineveh provinces have remained officially under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, the Kurdish leadership has sought to redraw the boundaries of Iraqi Kurdistan. After the Iraqi Kurdish region gained de facto autonomy with the creation of a no-fly zone in 1991 and then formally coalesced into the Kurdistan Regional Government after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Kurdish influence gradually expanded in the disputed areas. Kurdish representation increased through multi-ethnic political councils, facilitated by the security protection these communities received from the Kurdish peshmerga and by the promise of energy revenues, while Baghdad remained mired in its own problems. Formally annexing Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh and Diyala, part of the larger Kurdish strategy, would come in due time. Indeed, the expectation that legalities of the annexation process would soon be completed convinced a handful of foreign energy firms to sign contracts with the Kurdish authorities — as opposed to Baghdad — enabling the disputed territories to finally begin realizing the region’s energy potential.

Then the unexpected happened: In June, the collapse of the Iraqi army in the north under the duress of the Islamic State left the Kirkuk fields wide open, allowing the Kurdish peshmerga to finally and fully occupy them. Though the Kurds now sit nervously on the prize, Baghdad, Iran, local Arabs and Turkmen and the Islamic State are eyeing these fields with a predatory gaze. At the same time, a motley force of Iran-backed Shiite militias, Kurdish militants and Sunni tribesmen are trying to flush the Islamic State out of the region in order to return to settling the question of where to draw the line on Kurdish autonomy. The Sunnis will undoubtedly demand a stake in the oil fields that the Kurds now control as repayment for turning on the Islamic State, guaranteeing a Kurdish-Sunni confrontation that Baghdad will surely exploit.

The Turkish Dilemma

The modern Turkish government is looking at Iraq and Syria in a way similar to how Damat Ferid did almost a century ago when he sought in Paris to maintain Turkish sovereignty over the region. From Ankara’s point of view, the extension of a Turkish sphere of influence into neighboring Muslim lands is the antidote to weakening Iraqi and Syrian states. Even if Turkey no longer has direct control over these lands, it hopes to at least indirectly re-establish its will through select partners, whether a group of moderate Islamist forces in Syria or, in northern Iraq, a combination of Turkmen and Sunni factions, along with a Kurdish faction such as Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party. The United States may currently be focused on the Islamic State, but Turkey is looking years ahead at the mess that will likely remain. This is why Turkey is placing conditions on its involvement in the battle against the Islamic State: It is trying to convince the United States and its Sunni Arab coalition partners that it will inevitably be the power administering this region. Therefore, according to Ankara, all players must conform to its priorities, beginning with replacing Syria’s Iran-backed Alawite government with a Sunni administration that will look first to Ankara for guidance.

However, the Turkish vision of the region simply does not fit the current reality and is earning Ankara more rebuke than respect from its neighbors and the West. The Kurds, in particular, will continue to form the Achilles’ heel of Turkish policymaking.

In Syria, where the Islamic State is closing in on the city of Kobani on Turkey’s border, Ankara is faced with the unsavory possibility that it will be drawn into a ground fight with a well-equipped insurgent force. Moreover, Turkey would be fighting on the same side as a variety of Kurdish separatists, including members of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara has every interest in neutralizing.

Turkey faces the same dilemma in Iraq, where it may unwittingly back Kurdish separatists in its fight against the Islamic State. Just as critical, Turkey cannot be comfortable with the idea that Kirkuk is in the hands of the Iraqi Kurds unless Ankara is assured exclusive rights over that energy and the ability to extinguish any oil-fueled ambitions of Kurdish independence. But Turkey has competition. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is not willing to make itself beholden to Turkey, as did Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, while financial pressures continue to climb. Instead, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is staying close to Iran and showing a preference to work with Baghdad. Meanwhile, local Arab and Turkmen resistance to Kurdish rule is rising, a factor that Baghdad and Iran will surely exploit as they work to dilute Kurdish authority by courting local officials in Kirkuk and Nineveh with promises of energy rights and autonomy.

This is the crowded battleground that Turkey knows well. A long and elaborate game of “keep away” will be played to prevent the Kurds from consolidating control over oil-rich territory in the Kurdish-Arab borderland, while the competition between Turkey and Iran will emerge into full view. For Turkey to compete effectively in this space, it will need to come to terms with the reality that Ankara will not defy its history by resolving the Kurdish conundrum, nor will it be able to hide within its borders and avoid foreign entanglements.

Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk is republished with permission of Stratfor.”