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UK 'inadvertently helped neuter' Middle East ally the Iraqi Kurds



The claims refer to the weeks in which the Iraqi government forcibly took back disputed territories after a Kurdish independence referendum.  - 3495 - UK 'inadvertently helped neuter' Middle East ally the Iraqi Kurds

Foreign Office ministers inadvertently helped neutralise the Iraqi Kurds, one of Britain’s most effective allies in efforts to limit Iranian influence in the Middle East, a former UK and Nato official has claimed.

The claims, which refer to the weeks in September and October 2017 when the Iraqi government moved against Kurdish militia after an independence referendum, are expected to be raised with the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt at a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday in which the UK government will be asked to justify its assertion that Baghdad has recaptured disputed Kurd-held territory with “limited clashes and loss of life”.

Kurdistan, against overwhelming international advice, held a vote on independence in September that prompted Baghdad to react by forcibly taking back disputed territories outside the Iraqi Kurdish region’s original 2003 borders, including Kirkuk and the surrounding oilfields.

Tom Hardie-Forsyth, a former Cabinet Office and Nato official and now an informal adviser to the Kurdistan regional government, said in written evidence to the foreign affairs select committee that UK ministers possessed detailed intelligence warning of the precise links between Tehran and the Baghdad-backed Shia militia operating in Iraq.

There have been numerous claims of human rights abuses led by these militia, notably by parts of the Hashd al-Shaabi (Has), also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, to remove Kurds from Kirkuk.

Baghdad’s tough response has led to turmoil among the Kurdish political leadership, a near breakdown in relations between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments, and a weakening of the UK-trained peshmerga forces that played a key role in driving the Islamic State out of northern Iraq.

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Burt will be asked by the committee whether he agrees with the Iraqi embassy’s assertion that it is “entirely false” to say militias backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were involved in the recapture of the disputed Kurdish territory.

Hardie-Forsyth said confidential UK intelligence documents, which have been “circulating in official departments since at least February 2016”, showed Iran’s “high-level aim to create through Iraq and Syria an unbroken land corridor to the Middle East North Africa Region to further threaten Israel and Lebanon”.

His evidence also claims that after the capture of the disputed territories, Iranian-backed forces “successfully encouraged Baghdad to take a heavily punitive approach to the Kurds post-referendum, thus advancing Tehran’s ends […] up to and beyond the Iraqi-Syrian border”.

Warning that Baghdad’s tolerance of Shia militia is only storing up further anger among Iraq’s Sunni communities, Hardie-Forsyth claims that the Iraqi government and these militia are changing the demography of Sunni areas – especially in Diyala province, close to the Iranian border– as well as in those with Kurdish, Christian and Yazidi majorities.

He warned this sectarian cleansing may recreate the circumstances that led to Isis announcing its so-called caliphate three and half years ago.

“The situation now is much worse than before 2014, in that a major portion of the Sunni settlements are destroyed, with thousands killed, and, till now, more than 1 million Sunni Arabs are internally displaced in the Kurdish region of Iraq,” Hardie-Forsyth wrote. “Notably the majority are extremely reluctant to return to their home area because they are now equally scared of the behaviour of Has.”

He said the UK government’s official response to this had “frankly been muted at best”, while France and Germany had taken a far more robust approach. Hardie-Forsyth urged the government to urgently reappraise the UK’s “blanket support” of Baghdad given the latter’s acceptance of the Shia militias’ behaviour.

The Foreign Office argues in its defence that it repeatedly warned the Kurdish leadership not to go ahead with a unilateral referendum, and tried in the two days before the poll to engineer a compromise that the Kurds rejected. It said it was working to bring about a reconciliation between the Kurds and Baghdad, adding that it was putting effective private pressure on Iraqi government to pull back its militias.

theguardian

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Turkish President vows to crush any Kurdish protest against Afrin invasion

- TurkisStrikeK24 - Turkish President vows to crush any Kurdish protest against Afrin invasion


HDP’s Co-leader Serpil Kemalbay did not call for an uprising but urged “the people of Turkey not to remain silent to this invasion” which she said Erdogan launched to consolidate his rule.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), however, urged “support for the resistance of Afrin.”

Erdogan equated the opposition HDP which his administration has paralyzed with an ongoing crackdown launched in late 2016 with the PKK—outlawed for waging decades-long guerrilla warfare against the Turkish state over Kurdish self-rule.

With a nation-wide state of emergency in place since a failed military coup a year and a half ago and more powers granted to the judiciary and the national police force, authorities have already banned walks, demonstrations, and public meetings in all provinces.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Ankara launched investigations against HDP lawmakers Ayhan Bilgen and Nadir Yildirim for tweets criticizing Turkey’s offensive in Afrin.

“An operation targeting Afrin, if successful, will drag the country into civil war, and if unsuccessful will create the ground for a coup,” Bilgen tweeted a week ago amid rising threats from Ankara.

“An attempt to invade Afrin means a total war on the Kurdish people. Staying silent to this is dishonorable. Our honorable people in all four parts of Kurdistan will give the necessary response. Today is the day to mobilize,” Yildirim said in a tweet after attacks on Afrin began.

“Mind you, anyone making the mistake of getting out on to public squares will pay the heaviest price. I have to tell you because this is a national struggle. We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us,” Erdogan said, promising a swift victory.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany 



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Barzani and Kosrat Rasoul Meet in Erbil


Barzani and Kosrat Rasoul Meet in Erbil  - 66d399e9ab8adc124c65ca4320e22b6f L - Barzani and Kosrat Rasoul Meet in Erbil

ERBIL — Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani on Sunday met with Kosrat Rasoul, deputy secretary-general for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The meeting comes after Rasoul had spend weeks in Germany under medical treatment before he came back earlier this month.

The pair exchanged views on the current political situation in Iraq and the region.

No further details on their discussion were revealed to the media.



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Iran latest to condemn Turkish military campaign against Kurds in Afrin

- AfrinTurkey - Iran latest to condemn Turkish military campaign against Kurds in Afrin


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iran on Sunday called on the Turkish government to halt its military campaign against Kurdish forces in the Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) city of Afrin, noting the operation could “help terrorist groups.”

“Iran hopes this process will end immediately to prevent the deepening of the crisis in the border area between Turkey and Syria,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Qasimi was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency.

On Saturday, the Turkish army stepped up its military incursion against Kurds in the northern Syrian region of Afrin, wounding at least five civilians following bombardments on the outskirts of the city.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the campaign, called “Operation Olive Branch,” was aimed at the People’s Protection Units (YPG) who his country labels “terrorists” for their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The YPG, who make up a significant majority of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), was an integral part of the war against the Islamic State (IS).

Turkey’s military plans seem to have been accelerated by an announcement from the US that it will help the SDF build a new “border security force” to prevent the return of IS.

The YPG and SDF deny any terrorist links, a claim backed by the US government. However, Turkey’s President Erdogan called the border force a “terror army.”

Meanwhile, the Kurdish forces vowed to defend any attacks on the areas under their control.

“If attacked, we will have no choice but to defend ourselves and our people, but we state in front of the world that we harbor no hostile intent toward Turkey and would only take measures in our own defense in the event of hostile operations against our people,” an SDF statement read.



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