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The Kurds of Iraq have been loyal allies. The west must repay its debt | Simon Tisdall



Masoud Barzani  - 1506526373 684 3496 - The Kurds of Iraq have been loyal allies. The west must repay its debt | Simon Tisdall

Hostile moves by neighbouring governments to blockade and isolate the Kurds of northern Iraq in punishment for this week’s vote for independence require a robust response by Britain and the international community. Despite the historical betrayals of the western powers, the Kurds have proven loyal and valuable allies in the struggle against Islamic State and the former dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Now is time to settle the debt.

With the official results of the referendum called by Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan regional government (KRG) due on Wednesday, it is already clear an overwhelming majority backed independence. This outcome was never in doubt. It represents the partial culmination of a dream of self-determination and self-rule nurtured by generations of Kurds since the arbitrary Anglo-French carve-up of the Ottoman empire at the close of the first world war left them dispersed, stateless and homeless.

What is surprising, and dismaying, is the extraordinary display of unanimity exhibited by the world’s most powerful governments in opposing Kurdish independence. When before in the modern era have the US, the EU, Russia and China, plus the Arab League, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey all agreed on anything? Boris Johnson and Britain’s Foreign Office are part of this too cosy consensus. They argue, like the others, that Kurdish aspirations fuel instability in a volatile region.

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As always when dealing with the Kurds, the self-interest of outside actors obscures the vision of a better future. Their short-term focus is on defeating Isis and Islamist terrorism in general. Their longer-term interest, particularly the US and Russia, is in shaping the balance of power and advantage in a post-Arab spring, post-Syria Middle East. In the great powers’ geopolitical playbook, the Kurds have their uses. But their ideas of nationhood are a nuisance.

The limitations of this blinkered outlook are becoming apparent as Britain and its allies find themselves on the wrong side of a rapidly developing confrontation between Barzani’s government and its immediate neighbours, principally Iraq, Iran and Turkey. The KRG is not the cause of this upsurge in tensions. It has just conducted a long-delayed, highly successful, transparent and inclusive democratic exercise in a region not renowned for grassroots consultation.

The source of tension is external. Take, for example, the behaviour of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president. Erdoğan has spent the period since June, 2015 – when he almost lost power due, in part, to the success of a pro-Kurdish party – attacking the Kurdish minority populations in south-east Turkey and northern Syria, curbing democratic freedoms and purging tens of thousands of supposed fifth columnists. His neo-Islamist regime has cut cooperation with Nato and blackmailed the EU over Syrian refugees.

Erdoğan has proved himself no friend of Britain or Europe, or of western values. Now this same posturing bully is threatening to starve out the Iraqi Kurds and block their oil exports for having the temerity to try to direct their own future – and Britain is in his camp.

“[They] will be left in the lurch when we start imposing sanctions. It will be over when we close the oil taps, all [their] revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq,” Erdoğan warned.

In opposing the referendum, Britain also finds itself in bed with Iran, which has a long, ignoble history of oppressing its Kurdish minority. To mark its displeasure over the possible knock-on effects, Tehran sent fighter jets screaming menacingly over Kurdish areas of western Iran on Tuesday. The “ethnic and sectarian war” predicted by Erdoğan is also rendered a more likely prospect by this week’s joint Turkey-Iraq military exercises along the KRG’s border and moves to shut down airports and trade routes.

Barzani is meanwhile facing a predictable barrage of condemnation from Baghdad, where successive Iranian-backed, Shia-led governments have fiercely opposed Kurdish self-determination. Iraqi Shia militias are reportedly ready to march on Kurd-controlled Kirkuk. But if fighting breaks out, it will be the fault not of the KRG but of its hostile, insecure neighbours and of complacent, unimaginative western leaders.

In a report published in 2015, the Commons foreign affairs committee was clear where Britain’s loyalties lie. “The UK is fortunate to have in such a volatile part of the world a partner as relatively moderate, pragmatic, stable, democratic, secular and reflexively pro-western as the KRG,” it said. Maintaining the KRG as a “haven of tolerance and stability”, not least in its approach to women’s rights and humanitarian issues, and as an ally against extremist forces, was of critical importance.

Saddam tried to crush the Kurds of northern Iraq in 1991, in the wake of the first Gulf war. Britain and its partners responded effectively with safe havens and a no-fly zone. A determined, principled stand is once again required to uphold the Kurds’ democratic rights.

Simon Tisdall is an assistant editor of the Guardian and a foreign affairs columnist

theguardian

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US-led coalition strikes kill 150 Islamic State militants in Syria



A pair of US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles flying over northern Iraq  - 3607 - US-led coalition strikes kill 150 Islamic State militants in Syria

US-led coalition strikes kill 150 Islamic State militants in Syria

Strikes near As Shafah come as the US urged Turkey to focus on fighting Isis and show restraint in its campaign against Kurdish forces







A pair of US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles flying over northern Iraq  - 3607 - US-led coalition strikes kill 150 Islamic State militants in Syria









The US has signalled an open-ended military presence in Syria as part of a broader strategy to prevent Islamic State’s resurgence
Photograph: Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/AFP/Getty Images

The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State has said it has killed nearly 150 militants in strikesin the Syrian middle Euphrates valley.

The strikes on Saturday come as the US urged Turkey to show restraint in its campaign against Kurdish forces in northern Syria and to focus on fighting Isis. On Tuesday, Turkey claimed to have killed 260 Kurdish and Isis fighters in a four-day offensive the north of the country.

The US has signalled an open-ended military presence in Syria as part of a broader strategy to prevent a resurgence of Isis, pave the way diplomatically for the eventual departure of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and curtail Iran’s influence.

“The precision strikes were a culmination of extensive intelligence preparation to confirm an Isis headquarters and command and control center in an exclusively Isis-occupied location in the contested middle Euphrates river valley,” said a statement issued on Tuesday by the coalition.

The strikes took place near As Shafah, Syria and killed between 145 and 150 militants. The statement added that US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes Kurdish YPG fighters, helped in target observation.

Turkey seeks to avoid any clash with US, Russian or Syrian forces but will take any steps needed for its security, a Turkish minister said on Tuesday, the fourth day of its air and ground offensive against Kurdish forces.

The United States and Russia both have military forces in Syria and have urged Turkey to show restraint in its campaign, named Operation Olive Branch, to crush the US-backed Kurdish YPG in the Afrin region on Turkey’s southern border.

“Our SDF partners are still making daily progress and sacrifices, and together we are still finding, targeting and killing ISIS terrorists intent on keeping their extremist hold on the region,” maj gen James Jarrard, commander of special operations for the coalition, said in the statement.

The United States has led an international coalition conducting air strikes against Islamic State since 2014. US troops have served as advisers on the ground with Iraqi government forces and with Kurdish and Arab groups in Syria.

The coalition has said in the past that fewer than 1,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, but that the militant group still remains a threat. The figure excludes areas in western Syria under the control of Assadss government and his allies.



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Kurds in Canada urge Turkey to ‘stop spilling Kurdish blood’ in Afrin

- KACOttawa - Kurds in Canada urge Turkey to ‘stop spilling Kurdish blood’ in Afrin


Rojen Rahmani, head of lobbying and advocacy for KAC, said the Canadian government needs to respond and condemn Turkey’s violent campaign in Rojava.

“I think Canada’s response to Turkey’s attack on Afrin needs to be louder,” she told Kurdistan 24. “[Canada] needs to play a larger role taking into account the YPG forces are an ally of America and Canada.”

Turkish warplanes began striking the Kurdish city of Afrin on Saturday as ground troops entered the region the following day.

The campaign dubbed “Operation Olive Branch” is meant to clear Syria’s Kurdish-held northwest district of People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters who Turkey claims are an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Ankara has labeled the US-backed Kurdish forces a “terrorist organization” and has been infuriated by Washington’s support for the YPG.

The US, which is backing the YPG in the ongoing battle against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, said it was concerned regarding the situation.



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New Governor Steps Up Arabisation Campaign in Kirkuk

- 955d54c3357369ad15d1991b10e69675 L - New Governor Steps Up Arabisation Campaign in Kirkuk


KIRKUK — The new governor of Kirkuk who was appointed by the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, Rakan Saeed, helps the Arabisation campaign against the indigenous Kurdish population of the province.

According to a written document, a copy of which was obtained by BasNews, signed by the governor himself, Saeed urges the security forces based in Nawroz district of Kirkuk to send him the list of names who have been given lands by the directorate of the area.

The documents also show that the people whom their names are in the wanted list have to leave the place in 7 days otherwise they bear the responsibility.

According to the information obtained by BasNews, the number of residents who have been warned to leave their properties is estimated to be 130 families who had built their houses 14 years ago in Kirkuk.

Political observers believe that Saeed’s documents are to intensify the Arabisation in Kirkuk province, therefore he should be stopped.

On October 16th, 2017, Hashed-al Shaabi in collaboration with a few other militias which were allied by some “traitors” in Kurdish military forces, invaded Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, and Khanaqin. During the invasion, hundreds of citizens were killed or severely injured despite the fact that approximately 200,000 people fled their cities.





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