Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Iraq Updates - June 30 , 2014 -- As the Iraq Government ( helped by Syria / Iran / Russia and the US ) mans the barricades to defend Baghdad / Samarra / Najaf / Karbala and to attempt to retake territory seized by various Sunni fighting Groups , just note the Kurds are moving quickly to establish Kurdistan in Iraq !
29th June: On the first of Ramadan, Daash has declared itself and the territory it holds an Islamic State. It has changed its name to Daulat Islamia or Islamic government/state or its acronym DI. The new caliph and “successor” of Muhammad (sawa) and the “commander of the faithful (Amerul Momineen)” of Daulat Islamia is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. DI has asked all fighters within its borders to pay allegiance to their caliph.
NB: The title Ameerul Momineen (Commander of the faithful) is one that Sunnis have used for nearly every single Caliph or Sultan. The Shias only refer to Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) by this title, not even the other Imams are called by this title.
Other notables who have called themselves Amerul Momineen in recent times:
The King of Morocco
Mullah Umar of the Taliban
Nawaz Sharif tried to add it to his title but failed.
Reportedly, Zia ul haq of Pakistan
30th June: Other Islamist groups in Iraq and in the region, along with some Salafist clerics, have reacted with disappointment at DI’s declaration of a DI, Stating that such a state and the allegiance sought may undermine the gains made by Islamists everywhere.
30th June: Transcript of a video message by DI, A DI fighter pointing to the now defunct border: “The Safavi army used to stand here. But there is no border. This is the so called check point, the soldiers of Maliki used to stand…” he later steps on a army battalion board, “the only battalion here is of Allah. Abi Bakr al Baghdadi used to say that he is the breaker of borders. We will inshallah break the borders of Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan. There will be only one flag of DI. All the flags of kufr will be no more. We are one country all muslims, and we have one imam.”
30th June: A very important link by David Hungerford in the comments to the previous
The article shows a broad based resentment of the Government in Baghdad and the firm resolve of Iraqi Sunni society to get rid of the “sectarian puppet corrupted government” of Nouri Al Maliki.
The rebels against the government consist of Iraqi Sunni Arab tribes, ex army officers, Ex Ba’athist and Islamic Jihadist. The government refers to all its enemies as Daash. The Kurdish authorities and press have a similar tendency of calling the Sunni revolution as Daash.
30th June: The leader of the largest Sunni tribe in Iraq, Ali Hatem Suleimani, has stated that his tribe will continue to back the Islamists as long as Maliki is in power.
30th The government has played down the importance of the eastern towns of Rawa, Ahna, and al-Qaem. It is stating that nothing of strategic importance is located there.
30th June: Iran is pushing as priority gas supply to Iraq to feed Iraq’s four gas power plants.
30th June: CNN reports that most of the Shia volunteers have been given between 7-10 days of training, but are full of conviction, before being sent to fight DI.
30th June: A woman claiming to be a resident of Tikrit sends a video message to CNN: “June 28, 2014. Thank God, Tikrit is safe and still in the hand of tribesmen and not troops of 'al-Haliki” (al-Haliki is a derogatory reference to Maliki, it refers to his death)
30th June: Rear Adm. John Kirby of the Pentagon stated that the American jets were not slow in coming and that the first two jets still to be delivered would have made little impact on the ground. Russian officials must have a higher regard for the SU-25 than the Americans have of their F-16.
30th June: His Holiness the Pope, Francis I, has asked the authorities in Baghdad to form a national unity government and end the vilence in the country. He has expressed solidarity with the refugee Christian population of Iraq.
30th June: The king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has sacked the deputy defense minister Prince Khaled bin Bandar bin Abdul-Aziz on the recommendation of the Defense Minister Prince Salman.
30th June: An Iranian military commander Hassan Firouzabadi has expressed alarm at the death sentence handed to Shia Saudi cleric Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr. He has expressed his hope that the government of Saudi Arabia (land of turbulent Princes, aging monarchs and caged princesses) will overrule this unjust sentence.
30th June: Shimon Peres has expressed hope that the presence of Daash will help unite Arabs and Israelis to a bigger threat.
30th June: In other news from the promised/cursed land, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the creation of an independent Kurdish state.
30th June: This article by the New York Times claims that the State Department investigator of the Blackwater atrocities in Iraq has had his work hampered by death threats.
The lukewarm war waged by the Nobel peace prize winner is getting warmer by the day. Just out from Reuters:
UNITED STATES SENDS UP TO AN ADDITIONAL 300 TROOPS INTO IRAQ, DETACHMENT OF HELICOPTERS AND DRONE AIRCRAFT - PENTAGON
President Barack Obama says he's sending about 200 more U.S. troops to Iraq to protect Americans and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The announcement will bring to nearly 800 the total number of U.S. forces in and around Iraq to train local forces, secure the embassy and protect American interests.
Obama notified House and Senate leaders in a letter on Monday. Obama says the additions include security forces, rotary-wing aircraft, and support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Obama has ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq. But he says the additional troops will be equipped for combat. He says their purpose is to protect U.S. citizens and property if needed.
Obama says the troops will stay in Iraq until security improves so that the reinforcements are no longer needed.
Note that "this time" it is not just "military advisors" but outright troops: according to the Pentagon, the deployment is “separate and apart” from military advisers deployed to Iraq. This force is deploying for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat. This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed,” Obama says in letter to Congress.
Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby on Additional Security Forces to Iraq
At the direction of the president, the U.S. military augmented its security assistance by up to approximately 200 personnel to reinforce security at the U.S. embassy, its support facilities, and Baghdad International Airport. The president authorized this augmentation as a prudent measure to protect U.S. citizens and property.
These additional personnel arrived in Iraq Sunday and today from locations within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Capabilities provided include a detachment of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, which will bolster airfield and travel route security. Similar to the U.S. security personnel who arrived in Baghdad earlier this month to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, they will integrate with existing U.S. embassy security teams.
The presence of these additional forces will help enable the embassy to continue its critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraq on challenges they are facing as they confront Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
In addition, the approximately 100 personnel already prepositioned in the Central Command region -- previously announced by the Defense Department in mid-June -- will also move forward to Baghdad to provide security and logistics support.
These forces are separate and apart from the up to 300 personnel the president authorized to establish two joint operations centers and conduct an assessment of how the U.S. can provide additional support to Iraq's security forces as they confront the grave threat posed by ISIL.
So much for Obama's historic withdrawal of US armed forces from Iraq. Also so much for Obama's latest lie that the US won't be sending US troops to Iraq:
Elsewhere, that other civil war that was put on "hold" has now officially resumed following a statement by Ukraine' president Poroshenko has called an end to the cease fire and has once again declared martial law in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions.From his just released announcement:
June 30 evening, a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. After discussing the situation, I, as Commander-in-Chief, has decided not to pursue a unilateral cease-fire regime.
Protection of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, safety and life of civilians requires not only defensive but also offensive operations against terrorist militants. Armed Forces, National Guard, the State Border Guard Service, Security Service received appropriate instructions.
We will attack and liberate our land.Non-renewal of the ceasefire - is our response to terrorists, rebels, looters. To all those who are making fun of civilians. Who paralyzing the work of regional economy. Who plucks the payment of salaries, pensions, stipends. Who undermines and destroys railroad plumbing. Who has deprived people of normal, peaceful life.
Look for the US to be sending "military experts" in that region shortly as well.
A week and a half ago, President Obama broke his “no boots on the ground” pledge, sending 300 military advisers to Iraq. At the time, administration officials explained it by claiming they weren’t technically combat troops, and that the pledge was simply not to send “combat troops” to Iraq.
CNN is reporting that in addition to the 200 combat troops reported to Congress, another 100 troops who were in the area are moving into Iraq. These troops are in addition to the 300 troops already guarding the embassy and 300 “advisers” announced last week.
Only 180 of the advisers are here so far, so about 800 US troops are in Iraq now, with expectations of further increases going forward, including support staff for the new combat forces and for the Joint Operations post in Baghdad, which is what the advisers are running.
Rebel mouthpiece the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the eight were crucified on Saturday because they were “considered too moderate.” ISIS accused them of being Sahwa fighters, their catch-all term for US-backed rebels.
Exactly what faction the crucified rebels were from is unclear, as ISIS is fighting with multiple other rebel factions, most notably the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the region.
ISIS has carried out crucifixions on occasion in the past, but this appears to be the single largest such incident. Coinciding with today’s declaration of their territory as The Islamic State, ISIS is pushing to establish itself as the unquestioned leader of the Syria rebellion, and indeed the unquestioned leader of international jihad in general.
The first actual combat planes the Iraqi Air Force has managed to get its hands on, the Maliki government today took delivery of 12 “second-hand” Su-25 warplanes from Russia.
Su-25s represent some of the finest technology the late 1970′s Soviet Union had to offer, and while not as powerful as the F-16s Iraq ordered from the US back in 2011, they have the advantage of actually having been delivered.
On the downside, the US is rushing Hellfire Missiles to Iraq, which are totally incompatible with the Su-25s. Making matters worse, ISIS looted large amounts of US-made Stinger missiles from Iraqi forces in Mosul, and those missiles were designed to shoot down Soviet aircraft like the Su-25.
Comments by Iran’s Deputy Joint Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri suggest Iran is poised to dramatically escalate its involvement in the defense of the Iraqi government.
Brig. Gen. Jazayeri, a top Revolutionary Guard figure, says Iran’s response to ISIS will be “certain and serious,” and said his country is planning to copy the “winning strategy” used in the Syrian Civil War to Iraq.
Exactly what the “Syria strategy” entails was unclear, but Jazayeri talked of mobilizing masses of ethnic groups to the defense of the Iraqi state, saying the “popular defense” effort was already under way.
The big question then becomes how much of a “winning strategy” Syria has actually been, as while the area around Damascus is comparatively secure, the northern half and eastern half of the nation are pretty much entirely under rebel control, with ISIS carving out its new “Islamic State” as much out of Syria as Iraq.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The prospect of an independent Kurdish state has kept Kurds occupied, since Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani called it time for the Kurds to decide their own future.
Petitions have appeared on the Internet demanding approval for this independent Kurdish State. Kurds began a “We’re all Peshmerga” campaign online, in support of the Kurdish fighters securing the new borders of Kurdistan.
Although support for independence spreads nearly region-wide, many Kurds admit they have never really thought beyond making the ideal come true.
“My only real dream in life will be realized,” Rawand Barzinji, a Kurd living in Holland, simply says. “I will return for good and continue my life in Kurdistan. The nature and the land there are the example of paradise...
“At least it gives me a country. A real country that I can really call my own,” adds Rawand Sirwan, a student in the Kurdistan Region’s capital, Erbil. “We all want to be independent. Many men and women lost their lives for this to happen.”
Freedom is the main feature of independence for Soran Naksbandy, a photographer in Kurdistan’s second city, Sulaimani. “I will be witnessing a free Kurdish state in my lifetime, and that has a long-lasting effect in every aspect of my life. My kids will be born free and die free.”
He refers to a Kurdish saying to show how important freedom is: “Kurds will not break your bones even if they tried to eat your flesh. We prefer a free life in poverty above a rich life without the dignity of being a free man.”
“Like other people deserve their own land, so do we,” says Nechir Herki, a returnee from Europe who lives in Erbil. He expects the new state will offer Kurds more security on all fronts. “We will be a step nearer to a better democracy. We will be more influential in the outside world.”
Not to be part of Iraq anymore -- that is seen as an important result of independence for Kurdish individuals.
“I feel humiliated being forced to be Iraqi,” says Saman Penjwini, a manager for an NGO in Sulaimani. “I will feel more proud and can loudly mention my nationality without feeling ashamed.”
This is echoed by student Zana Ahmed in Erbil. Like others, he thinks Kurds will have less trouble traveling around. “I will release myself from all the troubles that I face because of the Iraqi government. Because I have an Iraqi passport, I can’t go to Europe as easily as people from other countries.”
The expectation is that visas to Western countries will be easier to come by, because Kurds will be looked at differently.
As Ahmed puts it: “Next time I meet someone from abroad I will say that I am from Kurdistan, and not Iraq, so they will not say anymore, ‘Oh you are from Iraq, with its bombs.’”
For accountant Balien Abdul-Kareem from Erbil, the discrimination of Kurds inside Iraq in the past still plays a role. A Kurdish state “ensures that my voice will be heard in a democratic way; and it guarantees that there will be no dictator who kills me as part of ethnic cleansing.”
Not to be part of the Sunni and Shiite opposites is another main effect of Kurdish independence from Iraq, Abdul-Kareem points out. “An independent Kurdistan allows me practice my Islam in a Kurdish, peaceful way, away from Shiite-Sunni hatred,” he says. “It allows me to think the way I want.”
Not everybody is optimistic. Some predict hardship.
Student Halwest Amir from Ranya sees a dark future for the young. “Some will die in the fight. Some cannot study well. Some of our fathers now are fighting, so we should protect our families.”
PhD student Hezhin Harun from Sulaimani admits to being afraid. “We do not have food security,” he says, “I am afraid of the mentality of our neighbors.”
He wonders what will happen if neighboring countries close their borders in protest to Kurdistan’s independence. That will lead to shortage of many products, as most goods in Kurdistan are imported, and to rising prices.
Some think independence will not bring change, since the people would remain the same.
“I do not think we are ready. Just look at our public services, education sector, health, law. It is all in shambles. If we cannot properly manage those, how can we manage a whole country and its budget?” a woman from Sulaimani wonders, wishing to remain anonymous.
Jewan Salman, living in Holland, thinks that independence needs to be learned: “Independence means you take your own decisions. If offered independence, a child can grow and explore its abilities. The child needs a teacher. But that takes time, it is not a matter of days but of years. It will be the same for Kurdistan.”
A Discrete Friend of Iraqi Kurds Voices Open Support for Independence
Netanyahu: ‘We should... support the Kurdish aspiration for independence.’ Photo: AFP
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – With Iraq spinning out of control under a jihadi-led Sunni rebellion and the autonomous Iraqi Kurds expanding territorial control and moving closer to independence, Erbil is attracting support from a discrete friend: Israel.
"We should... support the Kurdish aspiration for independence," Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a think tank in Tel Aviv on Sunday. He called the Kurds "a nation of fighters (who) have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence.”
The support for independence – a perennial aspiration of Iraq’s estimated five million Kurds – clashes with US policy in Iraq, which has opposed any expansion of Kurdish autonomy out of fear that would mean a step toward independence.
Kurdistan and Israel have maintained quiet business, intelligence and military ties, with Israeli leaders often praising the Kurds, many of whom see the Jewish state as a model for their own future homeland.
Netanyahu made the call for Kurdish independence as part of a broader alliance with moderate forces across the region.
In a meeting last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann called Kurdish independence as “a foregone conclusion.”
"Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion," Lieberman's spokesman quoted him as telling Kerry at a meeting in Paris last Thursday.
A day earlier, praise also came from Israeli President Shimon Peres, when he visited the White House.
"The Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic. One of the signs of a democracy is the granting of equality to women," Peres said.
Sardar Sharif, a doctoral researcher in international relations at the University of Dohuk who has studied the Kurdish-Israeli ties, explained that Israel has maintained discrete military and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, and that former Iraqi-Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani had helped Jews leave Israel for Israel.
"The Israelis and the Kurds had a common enemy, namely the Arab states that were hostile to them," said Sharif.
The Israeli-Kurdish relation has been secret until now because the Kurds have wanted it, “because Israel is not popular in the Middle East,” Sharif said.
”Our silence - in public, at least – is best. Any unnecessary utterance on our part can only harm them (Kurds),” senior Israeli defence official Amos Gilad was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Eliezer Tsafrir, a former Mossad station chief in Kurdish region in the 1960s, said secrecy regarding the nature of ties had been a Kurdish request.
"We'd love it to be out in the open, to have an embassy there, to have normal relations. But we keep it clandestine because that’s what they (the Kurds) want,” he told Reuters.
According to Sharif, the Israelis have an interest in getting a new and powerful ally in the Middle East, where they feel alone against the Arabs – as do the Kurds.
"Israel was hoping to get a moderate, secular Muslim ally in Turkey, but the relationship was strained after 2010. Now, they aim at the KRG," said Sharif, referring to an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists in May 2010.
In addition, the Israelis are concerned about Iran's growing influence in the “Shiite crescent” -- Iraq, Syria and with the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
"The Israelis are hoping for a new ally in the Middle East that could mitigate Iranian influence in the region,” Sharif told Rudaw.
Tobias Havmand, an international journalist who has reported from around the Middle East, believes that a new alliance picture is emerging in the Middle East and Israel is trying to navigate, so that they can overcome their isolation and win new partners.
"An independent Kurdistan would be a thorn in the side primarily Iran, Israeli's arch-enemy, and Israel needs regional allies. It's easier to make a strategic alliance with the secular Kurds than with Arabs and Persians," he said.
But it is still quite risky to ally with the Israelis, because it can give a little backfire, experts warn.
"Israel is still the object of hate number one in the region, and being too closely associated with them opens a popular popular flank of isolation and hostile demonstrations of nations and people who already have problems with Kurdish independence," said Havmand.
Sharif agreed and believed the Muslim and Arab world will perceive the Kurds relationship with the Israelis as treason.
“But the Kurds will perceive this view as hypocrisy, as the Muslim-Arab countries in secret also trade with Israel.
“Why is it halal (permitted) for them, but haram (forbidden) for us, the Kurds will ask?” he said.
“Kurdistan respects other ethnicities of these areas and we will conduct a transparent referendum and for this we ask the UN to help,” Barzani told Nikolay Evtimov Mladenov, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). Photo: KRP.org
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish President Massoud Barzani on Sunday called on the United Nations to help arrange a referendum in Kirkuk, to decide whether the oil-rich city in northern Iraq will formally become part of the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“Kurdistan respects other ethnicities of these areas and we will conduct a transparent referendum and for this we ask the UN to help,” Barzani told Nikolay Evtimov Mladenov, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Kirkuk has been among the so-called “disputed territories” that Erbil and Baghdad have quibbled over for more than a decade. The fate of Kirkuk and the other disputed lands was supposed to be decided in a 2007 referendum that never took place.
But Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved into Kirkuk and other disputed areas of the same province -- as well as in Nineveh and Diyala -- after the Iraqi army largely collapsed when jihadi-led insurgents began an advance across Iraq nearly three weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the ISIS declared an Islamic state Sunday that stretches from the provinces of Aleppo in Syria to Diyala in Iraq, with their commander Abubakr al-Baghdadi named the caliph.
In the predominantly-Turkmen village of Bashir south of Kirkuk on Sunday ISIS fighters repulsed two attacks by the Shiite Badr militia, killing and wounding more than 50 militiamen and capturing 20.
In Kirkuk last week, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said his visit was “to meet with military, security and political parties and about how to protect Kirkuk and how to make it an example of ethnic and religious coexistence.”He pledged that Peshmerga forces would protect everyone in Kirkuk, not just Kurds.
A statement on the website of the Kurdistan Region presidency quoted Barzani telling the UN envoy that Erbil could not pay the price for the wrong policies of Baghdad, and that due to the central government’s mistakes and failures terrorists had now become neighbors of Kurdistan.
With Iraq embroiled in a full-fledged Sunni insurgency, the Kurds have emerged as key players in any plan to stabilize the country and preventing it from splintering into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish portions.
International leaders, who have included US Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart William Hague, traveled to Erbil last week to seek Kurdish support for an inclusive emergency government in Baghdad.
During his visit to Kurdistan, Hague commented on his Facebook page that “as we work together to help address the current crisis, we will also work to strengthen and deepen our wider relationship.”
In its first session since the latest hostilities in Iraq the Kurdish parliament established a referendum committee, underscoring the seriousness with which the Kurds want to settle the Kirkuk issue, which would be a leap toward realizing their aspirations of independence.
Iraq’s Kurds have always seen Kirkuk as the capital of a future homeland.
But Kurdish independence has had few supporters in the West, with Washington among the opponents.
A rare support came Sunday from Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who called for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan as part of a broader alliance with moderate forces across the region.
"We should... support the Kurdish aspiration for independence," Netanyahu told a think-tank in Tel Aviv. He called the Kurds "a nation of fighters (who) have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence.”
Kurdistan and Israel maintain quiet relations, with Israeli leaders often praising the Kurds, many of whom see the Jewish state as a model for their own future homeland.