Friday, June 27, 2014

Iraq Updates -- Pentagon: Armed US Drones Flying Over Baghdad Says Flights Meant to Protect US 'Advisers' ....... Maliki Faults US, Announces Fighter Jet Purchases From Russia Jets Will Arrive in 'Two or Three Days' ( Maliki choosing Russia over the US ? ) ...... CIA Let Iraq Spy Network Degrade After Occupation Ended No Troops on the Ground, CIA Mostly Stayed in Embassy......... Iraq’s Shi’ite MPs Preparing to Replace Maliki Even Allies See Him as Too Divisive ...... 260 Killed Across Iraq, But Military Claims Gains in Tikrit......... Top news from Kurdistan ( focus on security , independence and oil ) ....... Suuni revolt based on much more than emergence of ISIS / ISIL ........Syrian rebel command ( FSA - so called Moderates ) sacked over graft claims (


Late in the day........


Rudaw.....





Veteran Peshmerga Commander: No Difference Between ISIS and Maliki

By KAWA EMÎN 7 hours ago
Sangawi, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), spoke to Rudaw TV about the reasons for the rapid fall of Mosul about two weeks ago to insurgents who include the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime.
Sangawi, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), spoke to Rudaw TV about the reasons for the rapid fall of Mosul about two weeks ago to insurgents who include the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime.
Until last week, when he was relieved of his post due to health reasons, Mahmoud Sangawi was the commander of Peshmerga forces in the “disputed territories,” the Kurdish-populated areas outside the Kurdistan Region’s official borders. Sangawi, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), spoke to Rudaw TV about the reasons for the rapid fall of Mosul about two weeks ago to insurgents who include the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime. He spoke about the mistrust between the Peshmerga forces and Iraq’s Shiite-led government, warning that after dealing with the ISIS Baghdad will turn its guns on the Kurds, and that the militants also plan to attack the Kurdistan Region. Here is an edited transcript of his interview:
Rudaw: As a commander and a veteran Peshmerga, how was it possible for the ISIS forces to control Mosul in such a short time?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Iraq is a country which is held together by force. It consists of Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds. Each possesses a different ideology. The British established this country by force. Throughout history, the successive Iraqi regimes used force against Kurds and Shiites, and when the Shiites took over power they tried to take revenge on Sunnis. 
Rudaw: Do you think the Sunnis have got their revenge as well?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Yes, they have. They might even have regional support, because a tribal force cannot destroy an army of a state within a few days. However, the Iraqi army was very weak. The commanders were all thieves and gangsters. Some commanders had 500 men, but only 100 were on duty and the payments of the rest would go to the commander. The Iraqi army was not established on professional grounds, which is why they cannot fight. Now, Sunnis think they have a right cause and consider Shiites as conquerors. The situation of the Iraqi army in Khanaqin and Kirkuk is worse than what happened in Mosul. 
Rudaw: By whose order were you put in charge of Peshmerga forces in Khanaqin and Jalawla? 
Mahmoud Sangawi: I was the head of the PUK branch for several years. During that time I was also in charge of the armed forces in the area. Therefore, the ministry of Peshmerga tasked me to supervise forces.
Rudaw: Do you supervise forces of all parties?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Yes, I supervise all armed forces in the area. 
Rudaw: How far has ISIS advanced, and how is the security situation in the area?
Mahmoud Sangawi: The security situation is very bad. The Iraqi government has completely collapsed in Jalawla, Qaratapa, Sadiyah, Mandali and other areas. 
Rudaw: Has the Iraqi army withdrawn from those areas?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Yes, it has.
Rudaw: Have Peshmerga forces replaced the Iraqi army in the area?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Yes. In Qaratapa and Jalawla Peshmerga forces have replaced the Iraqi army, but Sadiyah is under the control of ISIS. 
Rudaw: Why did the Iraqi army bombard Peshmerga forces a few days ago?
Mahmoud Sangawi: An (Iraqi) force was mobilized to rescue the Iraqi army in the area. Peshmerga forces were already supporting the rescue process. When the new force arrived it started shelling Peshmerga forces, and their helicopter continued to fire at us. 
Rudaw: Did the Iraqi government apologize for that?
Mahmoud Sangawi: They did not say anything. Hadi Ameri (Iraqi minister and militia leader) called (Kurdish commander) Hussein Mansour, saying they made a mistake. Mansour was not convinced that it was a mistake, and told Ameri that 21 bombs were fired at Peshmerga forces, and that their helicopter fired at Kurdish forces. 
Rudaw: In the areas under your supervision, how much of the Kurdish land is under your control and how much is controlled by the Iraqi government?
Mahmoud Sangawi: I can’t tell you exactly, but we are 90 kilometers away from Mandali. Mandali is under control of the Iraqi army. The Iraqi army is broken and we don’t want to create further problems for them. We hope they stay there, because if they leave the area ISIS might take advantage of it. 
Rudaw: Do you think Peshmerga forces can retake Sadiyah?
Mahmoud Sangawi: We have not mobilized our forces yet. We can bombard the town, but we have not done that. Our border is the Hamreen Mountain, which is beyond Sadiyah. Sadiyah is a Kurdish city. 
Rudaw: Recently, most of the Kurdish residents of Sadiyah sought shelter in Khanaqin. Do you think they will go back later?
Mahmoud Sangawi: It is the land of their fathers and grandfathers. As soon as it is free, people will return to their hometown. The names of all Sadiyah neighborhoods and mosques are Kurdish. The grave of Mahmud Pasha lays in Sadiyah and his palace still stands there. 
Rudaw: That area shares borders with Iran and is dominantly a Shiite area. What has Iran done to help the Shiites?
Mahmoud Sangawi: It is unfortunate for them to be Kurds and Shiites, because neither Maliki nor Iran supports them. They are all killed and they have left their lands.
Rudaw: There was some news that (Iranian commander) Qassem Soleimani visited the area and met with you. Is this true?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Not at all. No one visited us. He is said to have visited Baghdad and it is Iran’s right to defend them, because they are Shiites.
Rudaw: Are you saying just because they are Shiites they can interfere in the affairs of another country?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Yes. Otherwise, why would Iran interfere in the south of Lebanon? Iran supports Shiites in Iraq. 
Rudaw: Do you consider the Iraqi Army an invader? 
Mahmoud Sangawi: I can never mention the term “disputed territories” to describe the areas that are not under the control of Kurdistan Region, I call them the invaded areas of Kurdistan. 
Rudaw: If they are an invader army, why would the Peshmerga forces in this area coordinate with them?
Mahmoud Sangawi: We have a common enemy; otherwise there is no difference between ISIS and Maliki. 
Rudaw: It is said that, because of PUK’s relations with Iran, it is reluctant to make a decision whether to fight ISIS or not. Is that true?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Don’t you see that we are in fighting with ISIS, which is a terrorist group. Regardless of our relations with Maliki, we have been in fighting with ISIS. ISIS is a collection of Islamic forces that we used to fight in the Sharazur area. 
Rudaw: How are PUK’s relations with Maliki now?
Mahmoud Sangawi: We don’t have good relations now. During the commemoration of the assassination of Baqir Hakim, Barham Salih went to Baghdad and met Maliki. Whether we see them or not, they keep lying. 
Rudaw: Do you think Maliki lies?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Yes he lies, after ISIS he will fight us.
Rudaw: Recently, the world media have been talking about the division of Iraq after this war into three countries. Do you think this will happen?
Mahmoud Sangawi: I don’t know if it is going to happen now, but eventually it must happen. The future of Iraq is three federal regions for Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites. A central government and another Saddam are never acceptable. 
Rudaw: The Kurdistan Region presidency has announced that Peshmerga forces will not attack unless they are attacked. As a military commander in this area, do you think ISIS will attack Kurdistan?
Mahmoud Sangawi: Yes. ISIS has plans to attack Kurdistan, as it is currently attacking Jalawla. 
Rudaw: How long will Peshmerga forces remain in those areas? 
Mahmoud Sangawi:  We are not leaving, it is our land, and we have not invaded anyone’s land. 
Rudaw: It is said that Peshmerga forces are 50 kilometers away from Hamreen, and that if they are allowed by politicians they can advance to Hamreen. What do you think?
Mahmoud Sangawi: I don’t think Peshmerga forces should advance at this time. We have to consolidate our presence in the areas we have liberated. Maybe another stage is needed to take control of all Kurdish land. 
Rudaw: In the eighth cabinet, the Peshmerga minister is a senior member of the Change Movement (Gorran), as a commander. Are you ready to obey his command? 
Mahmoud Sangawi: If a minister thinks and acts as a Kurd and as a commander of Peshmerga forces, it is very normal for me to obey his command, because he represents the Kurdistan Region, not the Change Movement. I think Sheikh Jaafar, the previous minister of Peshmerga, treated all Peshmerga forces equally. 










Message from Kurds to Maliki  












Don't speak......




































































































































































Message from Maliki to US



You and me

We used to be together

Every day together always

****

Hush hush don't tell me cause it hurts......









http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-06-27/pentagon-admits-armed-drones-flying-over-baghdad-top-shiite-cleric-joins-us-calling-


Pentagon Admits Armed Drones Flying Over Baghdad; Top Shiite Cleric Joins US Calling For Maliki Ouster

Tyler Durden's picture




With Iraq closing a last minute deal with Russia to reinforce its depleted airforce by purchasing second-hand Su fighter jets, suddenly the US found itself scrambling: the last thing it wants is to hand over control of Iraq's skies to foreign-made warplanes. Which is perhaps why as CBS just reported, a Pentagon official has officially confirmed that the US is now flying armed drones over Baghdad. "The flights, which are not round the clock, are for the protection of the embassy and are not the precursor to air strikes" according to the same source.
So despite its reticence to engage in yet another Iraqi war, the US has now sent not only "military experts" but is once again doing what it does best: killing people by remote control. Not only that, but the people it (supposedly) intends to kill (for protection purposes of course) are the same Jihadist militants which Obama just requested another $500 million to equip and train. Because if you can't find enough support for a limited regional war, the next best thing is to wage a proxy war... against yourself. And since the US military industrial complex is arming both sides, it is a win-win once again for any neo-con interests.
In other Iraqi news, the days of the current PM Maliki, who has now burned all bridges with the US, appear numbered after Iraq's top Shiite cleric - Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani - on Friday called on political blocs to agree on the next prime minister before the newly elected parliament sits next week, stepping up pressure on political leaders to set aside their differences and form an inclusive government in the face of Sunni militants who have seized large swaths of territory. However, from a geopolitical perspective this opens up a new can of worms: since the new PM will certainly be even more pro-US in a country in which Russia has invested generously to build out its oil infrastructure, this means that Putin will likely have to intercede once again to make sure the new PM is just as agreeable to Russian interests as the current one. Which also means that a whole lot of money is being spent behind the scenes.
The reclusive al-Sistani, the most revered figure among Iraqi Shiites, rarely appears or speaks in public, instead delivering messages through other clerics or, less frequently, issuing edicts.

Prominent Shiite leaders are pushing for the removal of al-Maliki, whose bloc won the most seats in April's elections - 92 out of the legislature's 328 - but who has been widely accused of monopolizing power and alienating Sunnis with a heavy-handed response to years of militant violence.

Even al-Maliki's most important ally, neighboring Iran, is said to be looking at alternatives.
According to Reuters, a western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted that Maliki was now done.
“It looks like the debate is whether it is going to be Tareq Najem from inside State of law or someone from outside Maliki's alliance," the diplomat said, referring to Maliki's one-time chief of staff and a senior member of his Dawa party.

"It is generally understood it will not be Maliki," the diplomat said. "Security was his big thing, and he failed."

Allies of Maliki said Sistani's call for a quick decision was not aimed at sidelining the premier, but at putting pressure on all political parties not to draw out the process with infighting as the country risks disintegration.
Meanwhile, on the military front, a senior Iraqi army official told The Associated Press that Iraqi commandos aboard four helicopters landed at a soccer pitch inside a university campus in the insurgent-held city of Tikrit late Thursday and clashed with militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for several hours.
One of the helicopters developed mechanical problems after takeoff from Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, but landed safely in the provincial military headquarters. The official had no word on casualties and declined to specify the mission's objectives. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
The official also said 200 troops have arrived at a key refinery north of Baghdad under attack by militants for more than a week. The reinforcing troops join a 100-strong contingent that has been defending the Beiji refinery, Iraq's largest and the source of about a quarter of the country's oil product needs, including fuel for power stations.
Finally, for the visual learners, here is the latest Iraqi situation report from the Institute for the Study of War















Baiji fires still burning.....








tweets....



Another for oil refinery still on fire few minutes ago..



Air Base is surrounded from all sides by anti armed groups..



First after declared is clear..!! North is reportedly under a toxic gas attack..


UNCONFIRMED: spotted over eyewitnesses reporting..




Will US be booted out of Iraq for a second time ?


http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-06-27/america-deluded-us-slams-angry-iraq-pm-will-buy-russian-jets-instead-fight-against-i


"America Deluded Us" Slams Angry Iraq PM, Will Buy Russian Jets Instead In War Against ISIS

Tyler Durden's picture




It was a week ago when we learned that in yet another diplomatic masterstroke, Russia's Vladimir Putin took advantage of the vacuum in relations between the US (which now wants its heretofore puppet prime minister in Iraq removed) and the Iraqi PM (who has been increasingly vocal against US allies in the region, namely Saudi Arabia, and US demands for a coalition government) and offered his "complete support" to the Iraqi leader. Yesterday the Iraqi leader has decided to take Putin up on his offer (especially since as we reported previously the Iraqi air force is currently made up of all of two "equipped" Cessna jets) and has announced he has bought used Russian jets which he will use instead of US fighter planes in his war against ISIS.
As BBC reports, citing Maliki, "Jets from Russia and Belarus will hopefully make a key difference in the fight against ISIS in Iraq."He expressed regrets over Iraq's contract with the US, saying their "jets are taking too long to arrive."
"God willing within one week this force will be effective and will destroy the terrorists' dens," he told BBC Arabic.
Mr Maliki says Iraq has ordered Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia, possibly similar to the one pictured.
In the meantime, the prime minister took another chance to poke the US in the eye, which despite sending "weaponized consultants" or whatever Obama calls troops and special CIA agents these days, has so far failed to deliver on its promised fighter jets to the civil war-torn country. Maliki criticized the process of purchasing US jets as “long-winded,” adding that the radicals could have been repelled if Iraq had proper air defense.
"I'll be frank and say that we were deluded when we signed the contract [with the US]," Maliki said. "We should have sought to buy other jet fighters like British, French and Russian to secure the air cover for our forces; if we had air cover we would have averted what had happened," he went on.
Maliki said Iraq bought second-hand jet fighters from Russia and Belarus "that should arrive in Iraq in two or three days." He was speaking to the BBC's Arabic service in his first interview for an international broadcaster since Isis - the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant - began its major offensive. 
The prime minister also confirmed that Syrian forces had carried out air strikes against Islamist militants at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. He said Iraq had not requested the strikes but that it "welcomed" them. "They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours and the final winners are our two countries," he said.
Ironically, this also means that, at least optically, the US is now aligned with Russia as well as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia in the "all against one" fight against ISIS which continued to consolidate its territory in Iraq and Syria.
What it really means is that Obama has asked, and is about to get $500 million more to arm ISIS and its al-Qaeda peers in Syria, which in turn the Iraq air force will now use Russian jets to bomb.
What is the definition of a proxy war again?






Anti War......Mission creep already

Pentagon: 500 Troops in Iraq, More Are Coming

Major General Dana Pittard to Lead New US Force

by Jason Ditz, June 26, 2014
It hasn’t been so long since President Obama announced his intention to send “up to 300″ US troops to Iraq as “advisers,” and the Pentagon now says there are 500 on the ground, with more coming.
Only about 180 of the 500 are actually the “advisers,” with other troops part of anti-terrorism security team, and still others manning the new Joint Operations Center in Baghdad.
Major General Dana Pittard is leading the new mission, dubbed the Joint Forces Land Component Command-Iraq by the Pentagon. A second Joint Operations Center is being considered further north, but not confirmed yet.
Maj. Gen. Pittard had previously been the deputy commander of US troops in Kuwait, and before that was in command of Fort Bliss, in Texas.





Pentagon: Armed US Drones Flying Over Baghdad

Says Flights Meant to Protect US 'Advisers'

by Jason Ditz, June 26, 2014
While reporting yet more troops arriving in Iraq, the Pentagon revealed another sign of the growing US escalation into the country, saying that armed US Predator drones are flying over Baghdad today.
According to the Pentagon, the drones are part of an operation meant to protect the US “advisers” on the ground as they assess the status of Iraqi military forces in the capital.
The Pentagon reported that about 40 surveillance flights a day have been being conducted, and the Predators will be “augmenting” the US flights over Iraq.
The US drones are being flown out of a base in Kuwait, but aren’t alone in Baghdad airspace, as Iran is reportedly also flying surveillance drones over Baghdad, using a Baghdad airfield.



Maliki Faults US, Announces Fighter Jet Purchases From Russia

Jets Will Arrive in 'Two or Three Days'

by Jason Ditz, June 26, 2014
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki harshly faulted the United States for its longdelays in delivering ordered F-16 fighter jets today, saying if Iraq had the warplanes the recent ISIS takeovers never would have happened.
Maliki says Iraq should never have relied exclusively on the US to provide planes, andannounced the purchase of fighter jets from Russia and Belarus today, saying Russia will have the used planes on the ground in Iraq in 2-3 days.
Maliki wasn’t clear exactly what kind of warplanes were bought from Russia, but predicted that within a week the Iraqi military would be destroying ISIS dens across the nation’s west.
US shipments of F-16s had been delayed as opposition factions, notably the Kurds, had objected to further arming Maliki, envisioning Maliki using the planes primarily against internal opponents. At present Iraq’s Air Force has no active planes other than trainers and transport planes.



CIA Let Iraq Spy Network Degrade After Occupation Ended

No Troops on the Ground, CIA Mostly Stayed in Embassy

by Jason Ditz, June 26, 2014
Officials familiar with the situation are faulting the CIA’s lack of intelligence on Iraq in the lead-up to the ISIS offensive, saying the agency let most of its huge spy network rot on the vine after the occupation ended.
With no ground troops to back them up, the large CIA presence in Iraq mostly wound up hanging out in the Baghdad embassy, reluctant to go anywhere without protection.
The CIA defended its spy network, insisting anyone who was really familiar with the intelligence the CIA had produced on Iraq wouldn’t have been surprised by what ISIS had done.
Other officials, keen to shift the blame overseas, are faulting Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki, saying he had compromised a number of CIA spies over the years. They implied Iran had something to do with this.






Iraq’s Shi’ite MPs Preparing to Replace Maliki

Even Allies See Him as Too Divisive

by Jason Ditz, June 26, 2014
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remains stubborn about holding his premiership, but he may not have a choice in the matter as growing numbers of Shi’ite MPs,including members of his own State of Law Party, are drawing up plans for a post-Maliki distribution of power.
Parliament will be reconvening next week, likely on Tuesday, and will be choosing a new parliamentary speaker, setting in motion the election of a new president and eventually a new premier.
Sunnis and Kurds have opposed a third term for Maliki, and most foreign powers have also come out against him since the recent ISIS gains across western Iraq, believing a less contentious figure would be more able to secure Kurdish and Sunni Arab support for fighting ISIS.
Maliki, for his part, maintains that he is the only person strong enough to defeat ISIS, and has spun calls for unity by top figures as calls to unite behind him personally, and his continued rule.








260 Killed Across Iraq, But Military Claims Gains in Tikrit
by , June 26, 2014
The Iraqi military is reporting advances in Tikrit. If they should reclaim that town it will be a great psychological triumph for the ailing security forces. Still, at least 260 people were killed and 63 more were wounded across the country.
Politics:
Iraq purchased used jet fighters from Russia and Belarus, because the U.S. is taking too long delivering promised F-16s. However, U.S. Predator drones have already begun flying over Baghdad.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s support from his political party may beevaporating. Separately, he said that Syrian air strikes were not coordinated with Baghdad and they occurred on Syrian territory only. If true, the source of the air strikes that occurred on two cities remains a mystery.
Many residents who fled fighting in Tal Afar are now in a tent city in Germawa, where they are lamenting the existence of both the ISIS/DAASH militants and their own politicians.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that an independent Kurdish state arising from the breakup of Iraq is a foregone conclusion.
Meanwhile, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani visited Kirkuk for the first time since Kurdish forces took control of security there. The potential breakup, however, may not be as simple as some hope. Yet, the Kurds do need to consider their financial future now that Baghdad has cut off all monies owed them.
The Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul reported the flight of 50,000 Christians from Hamdaniya and nearby villages. Most of the Christians in Mosul itself fled soon after the fall of the city.
Fighting:
In Baghdad, at least 14 more people were killed during the third week of June than had previously been reported. Their bodies turned up at the morgue. Even more are being abducted, but their whereabouts are unknown. This scenario is likely repeating each week and driving Sunnis to stay home as much as they can. However, even at home they are not safe. Uniformed Shi’ite militiamen are growing bolder and taking victims from their residences.
Also in the capital, a suicide bomber killed 19 people and wounded 41 more inKadhimiya.
The number of dead in Syrian air strikes rose again, this time to 90 killed. That’s 33 more than previously reported. Rutba and Qaim were the cities more affected.
In Tikrit, State TV reported that 110 militants were killed during military operations that included an air strike on a former Saddam palace. Most of the fighting seemed to occur at the university campus where one Iraqi helicopter crashed after being fired upon. Other helicopters successfully delivered fresh troops. Two university professors were wounded at home during a mortar attack. One woman was killed and two others were wounded by artillery fire. 178 45 111
Three Peshmerga troops were wounded during a clash in Hamdaniya. Militants were also hurt or killed. The troops were digging trenches at the time of the attack. The militants have control of the water supply and are shelling the city, but the Peshmerga have mostly kept them at bay. Hamdaniya is home to many Christian and Shabak Iraqis.
A roadside bomb killed a Peshmerga fighter and wounded 12 more in Rabeaa.
Security forces killed 20 militants in Sakra, near Haditha.
In Jurf al Sakhar10 militants were killed.
The Iraqi government is claiming that the Baiji refinery is back under their control.Thirteen militants were killed during operations in the city.
Alam may have returned to the government control as well.



Rudaw......



President Barzani: We’ll Make Kirkuk an Example of Religious and Ethnic Coexistence

By RUDAW 11 hours ago
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani arriving in Kirkuk on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Photo: Rudaw
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani arriving in Kirkuk on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Photo: Rudaw
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region— President of the autonomous Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani made an unannounced visit to Kirkuk on Thursday where he met with Kurdish Peshmerga and security forces and pledged to protect the city and make it “an example of coexistence.”
“My visit here is to meet with military, security and political parties and about how to protect Kirkuk and how to make it an example of ethnic, religious and sectarian coexistence after returning its real identity,” said Barzani in a town hall meeting, addressing Peshmerga commanders and representatives of political parties in Kirkuk.
“I am here in Kirkuk to congratulate the people of Kurdistan for this big achievement for which we have been struggling and shedding blood for years,” added the Kurdish president.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved into Kirkuk city and the southern edges of the province following the complete withdrawal of Iraqi troops two weeks ago. On Thursday yet more Kurdish forces were dispatched to the province with tanks and heavy weaponry.
“We have always said, let the identity of Kirkuk return, then you would see the extent of Kurdish generosity and you would see how big and open is the heart of the Kurds,” said President Barzani, referring to extensive campaigns by previous Iraqi regimes to change the province’s demography. “Today is that day.”
Kirkuk is home to Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrian Christians. However, the Kurds consider it part of their homeland and much of their Kurdish armed and political struggle in the past several decades against Iraq’s central government was over the future of Kirkuk.
“We, Kurds should be more open today towards our brothers --Turkmen, Arabs Christians and all the other religions and sects,” said Barzani.
After the US-led invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Kurdish Peshmerga forces were able to control Kirkuk, but they were forced to leave the province, promising that Article 140 of the constitution would resolve the dispute.
Kurdish leaders however, blamed Iraqi leaders, among them Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for procrastination and reluctance to solve the issues and conduct a referendum regarding the fate of the province.
“You all remember that the slogan of our (September) revolution that said Kurdistan or death,” said Barzani. 
“Today Kurdistan has been achieved and we must protect it,” he added, as he hailed the landslide Kurdish victory in the provincial and parliamentary polls in the province in April.
Barzani told his audience in the Kirkuk town hall that a “new day” had arrived for the Kurds, saying, “I am very hopeful that this would be the end of all grief and we would be marching towards a new horizon and a brighter and better day.”
The Kurdish president reassured the residents of the province that Peshmerga forces were there to “protect Kirkuk and if necessary I’m ready to carry a gun and defend Kirkuk as a Peshmerga.”




Quebec Experts: Kurds Should Break Away Now

By Tessa Manuello yesterday at 07:55

French-speaking residents of Quebec celebrating Quebec National Day. Photo: mtlblog.com
French-speaking residents of Quebec celebrating Quebec National Day. Photo: mtlblog.com
MONTREAL, Canada — Sovereignty experts in Canada’s Quebec province say Kurds have a chance at independence but need to act now to ensure the strong pro-autonomy sentiment in the Kurdistan Region doesn’t fade.  
Despite their decades-long struggle for independence and the refusal by many to assimilate into Canada’s dominant English-speaking culture, many in Quebec’s French-speaking province are apathetic about breaking away from Canada. Although Quebec residents strongly identify with a distinct, Quebecois French-speaking culture and were once ardent supporters of independence, the pro-sovereignty movement has lost steam since two referendums on the question of independence failed in the 1980s and 1990s. 
Pro-sovereignists worry that their time may have passed in Quebec but say they see the exact opposite in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, where many Kurds who have rarely if ever identified with Iraq are hoping the time has come for Kurds to declare their own state given Iraq’s fragility. Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani implied the region might break away, telling CNN earlier this week that “after the recent events in Iraq it has been proven that the Kurdish people should seize the opportunity now.”
Patrick Bourgeois is a French Canadian author, a journalist and the president of an organization promoting an independent Quebec through the publication of pro-sovereignty writers. Bourgeois, whose organization has worked briefly with the Kurds as well as a host of other groups seeking sovereignty, including the Kabyle people in Algeria and the Palestinians, told Rudaw in a phone interview that it’s critical for groups to declare independence when momentum is on their side — even when there is war.
“I encourage the Kurds to deal with it as soon as possible. If the Kurds do not free themselves, then acceptance will become standard,” Bourgeois said.
“It’s easier to achieve liberation in times of violence rather than wait too long. Waiting too long ends up in situations like Corsica (France), Catalonia (Spain), Brittany (France), which are more complex now,” Bourgeois said. 
Mario Beaulieu, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, a political party devoted to the protection of Quebec’s interests and the promotion of Quebec sovereignty at the Canadian House of Commons, agreed, saying, “I want to share my solidarity with the Kurdish peoples, and I encourage them to continue working and fighting for their right to self-determination, it is a fundamental right.” 
Since the Iraqi army collapsed earlier this month in strategic locations such as key border crossings and major Sunni-dominated cities — leaving the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and local tribes in control of many Sunni Arab areas — speculation is rising that Iraq will break apart. The mayhem in Iraq may well be in favor to the Kurds seeking independence, however.
Even if Iraqi Kurds have managed to establish a semi-autonomous region in which Kurdish interests can be more adequately protected, pro-sovereignty leaders and federalist experts in Quebec warn the Kurds about the weaknesses of a federalist system in taking into account the interests of a minority.
Anne Légaré is an associate professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal’s political science department who has visited Iraqi Kurdistan three times. During her first visit in 2002, she gave a series of lectures focusing on the advantages and disadvantages of federalism, using Quebec’s challenges as an example. 
Like Kurds in Iraq, French Canadians enjoy some autonomy under Canada’s federalist system: They use French civil law for civil and commercial matters, and French is recognized as one of the country’s two official languages. But French Canadians remain concerned about their rights, particularly the right to use the French language in English-dominated Canada. 
Laws protecting the French language have been flouted many times, including by brand-name international chains in Quebec where private businesses must operate in French. The creeping dominance of English, however, shows that the institutions in Quebec have a limited influence over the enforcement of Quebec’s language law.
Since gaining semi autonomy in 1991 Iraqi Kurds have used their language widely and officially — in government institutions and schools, for example, where Arabic can be hard to come by. Kurdish is recognized as the national language of Iraq along with Arabic, but it is rarely, if ever, used outside of Kurdistan, including on government forms or in state institutions.
Language rights are just one of many issues for the Kurds, however, who suffered persecution and genocide under Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. Given the bloody history in Kurdistan, Légaré said the people of Quebec are “much less fervent” than Kurds about autonomy even though the Quebecois identity is ‘’more fragile’’ than the Kurds.
“The identity of the Quebec people cannot be compared with the Kurdish identity’s strength,” she said. “The Kurdish identity is something that lasted over centuries, that is very strong and that is supported significantly by its past. Quebec identity is more modern, contemporary, and more complicated because of its Northern American belonging, and the fact that it is within Canada that is an Anglo-Saxon country.” 




Analysis: Kurdistan Banking on Oil Sales

By Alexander Whitcomb 14 hours ago

Kurdistan Region's independent oil pipeline. Photo: Rudaw
Kurdistan Region's independent oil pipeline. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— It’s no secret that Iraqi Kurdistan is running short on cash six months after Baghdad stopped sending money to the region, cutting off the region’s main source of revenue. Banking on oil sales to pay bills, Kurdish officials are leveraging newly expanded oil fields and diminished confidence in war-torn Iraq to draw financing from the international community. 
Yesterday, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami told Reuters that the region expects to export 1 million barrels per day by the end of 2015, including crude from Kirkuk.
Major fields in Iraq’s disputed territories — many of which are now under Kurdish control, including Kirkuk — are set to increase the KRG’s share of oil wealth and make the region even more lucrative to international investors. 
One minor hurdle will be increasing its pipeline capacity, currently at 300,000 barrels per day. Energy experts estimate Kurdistan would need to export 450,000 barrels per day for oil revenue to match Kurdistan’s share of Iraq’s national budget. 
The major caveat is that Hawrami promised any oil revenue would be shared with the central government, which has been locked in disputes with the autonomous region over hydrocarbon exports for years now.  
There are two potential outcomes. The first is that the Kurdistan Region bargains with Baghdad and gains official permission for independent oil exports. The second is that no agreement is reached, and the KRG looks for down payments on future deliveries of oil international buyers. The latter would require buyers to bet against the resurgence of a strong Iraq by ignoring Baghdad’s warnings that Kurdish oil can only be purchased with the central government’s approval. 
Before the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took Mosul, Iraq filed for arbitration against Turkey and its state-owned pipeline for facilitating the sale of crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan without Baghdad’s permission.
Although the case is not expected to be ruled on soon, Iraqi officials threatened to sue and blacklist any oil buyers who purchase without Baghdad’s permission, which would likely deny them future access to larger fields in southern Iraq. Until recently the tactic worked, leaving one tanker full of Kurdish oil stranded off the coast of Morocco.  
Buyers seem to be less intimidated by Baghdad ever since militants captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The Iraqi military quickly crumbled in the face of a mounting insurgency, and it’s doubtful that many Sunni-dominated areas will be back in government control anytime soon. 
According to Turkish and Kurdish officials, $200 million in revenue from Kurdish pipeline oil has now reached Turkey’s state-owned Halk Bank, although the buyers have not been announced. The first cargo has been offloaded in Israel, a country that would never recognize lawsuits from Iraq. The two countries have officially been at war since Israel’s creation in 1948.  
In the absence of an agreement or international aid, the pace of Kurdish oil sales needs to accelerate. Baghdad hasn’t sent money to the KRG in six months, and $200 million doesn’t make a dent in the region’s mounting debts. Even the $3 billion in loans Hawrami claims the KRG has secured amount to less than half of what the federal government owes the region.  
A day before the ISIS and their allies drove the Iraqi military out of Mosul, KRG spokesman Safeen Dizayee stated the region needed approximately $1 billion for the monthly budget.  
Since then, several factors have dramatically increased spending. At least 300,000 refugees have arrived from Mosul, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a region already filled with refugees from Syria and Anbar.  
The Peshmerga now must to protect a 1,000-kilometer border they share with ISIS and Baathist insurgents. The region has expanded by 40 percent now that the Peshmerga control the disputed territories, and the KRG must pay salaries, ensure basic services and offer security.  
The Ministry of Finance has declined to comment on the budgetary crisis, but Gareth Stansfield, a former United Nations advisor to Iraq, estimates that these factors may have pushed monthly costs up to $1.5 billion.  Despite the increase, he is optimistic that regional and international partners won’t let the KRG go broke. 
According to Stansfield, the crisis “draws Turkey even closer to Erbil.” Turkey needs to ensure oil from Iraqi Kurdistan is exported for the sake of its own energy security, and Iraqi Kurdistan also serves as a territorial buffer against ISIS.   
“The choice is relatively simple for the international community, and especially the Americans. They really want to protect Kurdistan and endure that it remains stable domestically,” Stansfield says. “The Americans need to give them $1.5 billion a month, or they let the money earn the money themselves at $100 million a tanker. It’s a difficult argument to push back on.” 




Al Arabiya.....


ISIS militants seize town near Baghdad



A picture allegedly shows ISIS militants waving the trademark Jihadits flag as vehicles drive on a newly cut road through the Syrian-Iraqi border between the Iraqi Nineveh province and the Syrian town of Al-Hasakah. (File photo: AFP)


Armed insurgents belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are reportedly advancing towards the Iraqi capital after they seized a nearby town in the eastern Diyala governorate, security sources said Friday.
The sources told Al Arabiya News Channel that ISIS militants allegedly gained control over the town of al-Mansuirya, which is only an hour away from Baghdad.
They also said battles were raging in the town between ISIS militants and forces loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The recent advance comes after Iraqi forces on Thursday launched an airborne assault on Tikrit and recaptured a university campus that fell under ISIS control, Reuters quoted witnesses as saying.
Government forces have also been fighting back, relying on elite commandos flown in by helicopter to defend the country’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji.
Iraq’s million-strong army, trained and equipped by the United States, largely evaporated in the north after Sunni fighters led by ISIS launched their assault with the capture of the north’s biggest city Mosul on June 10.
A successful operation to regain territory inside Tikrit would deliver the most serious blow yet against the insurgency which for most of the past two weeks has seemed all but unstoppable in the Sunni heartland north and west of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, prominent Shiite leaders pushed Thursday forMaliki’s removal of as parliament prepared to start work next week on putting together a new government, under intense U.S. pressure to rapidly form a united front against an unrelenting Sunni insurgent onslaught.
(With Reuters) 

Iraqi Shiite leaders pushing for Maliki’s removal


Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (front) waits for the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of their meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Baghdad June 23, 2014. (Reuters)
Prominent Shiite leaders pushed Thursday for the removal of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as parliament prepared to start work next week on putting together a new government, under intense U.S. pressure to rapidly form a united front against an unrelenting Sunni insurgent onslaught.

Increasingly, the Shiite al-Maliki’s former allies believe he cannot lead an inclusive government that can draw minority Sunnis away from support for the fighters who have swept over a large swath of Iraq as they head toward the capital, Baghdad. In a further sign of Iraq’s unraveling along sectarian lines, a bombing on Thursday killed 12 people in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad that houses a revered shrine, and police found the bullet-riddled bodies of eight Sunnis south of the capital.

Most crucially, though, backing for al-Maliki is weakening with his most important ally, neighboring Iran.

A senior Iranian general who met with Shiite politicians in Iraq during a 10-day visit this month returned home with a list of potential prime minister candidates for Iran’s leadership to consider, several senior Iraqi Shiite politicians who have knowledge of the general’s meetings told The Associated Press.

Rowhani and Khamenei

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wants al-Maliki to remain in his post, at least for now, the politicians said, but Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rowhani, believes al-Maliki must go or else Iraq will fragment. Khamenei holds final say in all state matters in Iran, but the politicians expressed doubt he would insist on al-Maliki against overwhelming rejection of him by Iraq’s Shiite parties.

The general, Ghasem Soleimani, is expected to return within days to inform Iraqi politicians of Tehran’s favorite, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

Iran’s Shiite cleric-led government succeeded in herding reluctant Shiite parties into backing al-Maliki for a second term four years ago, and its leverage over Iraq’s Shiite political establishment has grown significantly since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops after an eight-year presence.

Non-Arab and mostly Shiite, Iran has found in majority Shiite Iraq a convenient vehicle to extend its sphere of regional influence to the heart of the Middle East. Iran's leverage in Iraq also gives it a trump card against its Sunni rivals in the Gulf region, where powerhouse Saudi Arabia, for example, has traditionally viewed Tehran with suspicion.

The United States and its allies are pushing for the creation of a government that can draw support among Iraq’s Sunni minority, which has been alienated by al-Maliki, seen as a fiercely partisan Shiite.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, meeting with al-Maliki in Baghdad on Thursday, told a news conference that “we believe the urgent priority must be to form an inclusive government ... that can command the support of all Iraqis and work to stop terrorists and their terrible crimes.”

Hague’s trip follows a visit by U.S Secretary of State John Kerry, who earlier this week delivered a similar message.

Kerry met in Paris on Thursday with foreign ministers from America's top Sunni Arab allies to consider how to confront the al-Qaida breakaway group leading the Sunni insurgent offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The threat “concerns every single country here,” Kerry told them at the start of the meeting, held at the U.S. ambassador’s residence.

The Arab diplomats did not commit to sending any military assistance to Baghdad, as the U.S. is doing. The Pentagon said Thursday that four teams of Army special forces have arrived in Baghdad, bringing the number of American troops there to 90 out of the 300 promised by President Barack Obama. The Americans will advise and assist Iraqi counterterrorism forces.

The Obama administration hopes that Iraq’s Sunni neighbors - notably Jordan and Saudi Arabia - will use their cross-border tribal networks to bolster the Sunni militias helping to fight the Islamic State. However, while they feel threatened by the Islamic State, those Sunni countries are also bitterly opposed to al-Maliki, saying his Shiite-dominated rule has marginalized Iraq’s Sunnis.

So far, al-Maliki has defied calls to step aside. In April elections, his State of the Law bloc won the largest proportion in parliament - 92 seats in the 328-member chamber - but that is not enough for the simple majority needed to name him prime minister.

He no longer has the support of his former Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni allies in his previous coalition.

“We need a government of national consensus. Now, who do you think will not be able to achieve consensus?” said Baleigh Abu Qolal, spokesman for a major Shiite party, the Iranian-backed Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

Compounding the pressure on al-Maliki, a prominent Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, called in a televised statement late Wednesday for a national unity government of “new faces” representing all groups.

Al-Sadr, whose followers fought fiercely against both U.S. forces and Sunni extremists during the height of the war nearly a decade ago, also vowed to “shake the ground” under the feet of the Sunni insurgents, who have threatened to advance toward Baghdad and holy Shiite cities in the south.

Sistani tells Maliki to step aside

Also, Iraq’s most revered and influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appealed to al-Maliki through an intermediary to step aside because he fears al-Maliki is driving Iraq into fragmentation, according to a senior member of a prominent Shiite family that has for decades maintained regular contact with al-Sistani.

“Al-Sistani is in his 80s and if there is one thing he does not want to see in his lifetime, it is an Iraq breaking up into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves,” the senior family member told the AP.

Al-Sistani, believed to be 86, lives in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, where he rarely ventures out of his modest house. But his voice is powerful: His call to arms last week prompted tens of thousands of Shiites to volunteer to fight against the Sunni militants.

Notably, Soleimani, the Iranian general, met for two hours with al-Sistani’s powerful son, Mohammed Reda, in Najaf, the Shiite politicians said.

The list of potential candidates that Soleimani is carrying includes Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a French-educated economist who has served as vice president; Bayan Jabr, a former finance and interior minister under al-Maliki; and former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the politicians said. But al-Maliki may insist that, if he goes, another figure from his State of the Law bloc get the post, giving him a continuing influence, they said.

The United States is pressing for parliament to act quickly on forming the new government, a process that took nine months in 2010. “Our concern will increase with every passing day” that the timetable is not met, a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussions over the Iraqi political process.

Iraq’s vice president called on the new parliament to convene Tuesday, when, under the constitution, its first step will be to elect a speaker. It then has 30 days to elect a new president, replacing ailing Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani, who has held the post for two terms and is ineligible for another. The president's job will likely go to Kurdish politician Barham Saleh, a former deputy prime minister.

The president will have 15 days to mandate the head of parliament’s largest bloc to form a new government. That prime minister-designate will then have 30 days to put together a coalition.

With Iraq’s bitterly divided sects focused on self-interests, the country’s top Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, vowed Thursday to maintain control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, seized by Kurdish forces, ostensibly to defend it from the Islamic State fighters.

“We will remain here together in Kirkuk,” Barzani declared during a tour of the city, which the Kurds have long sought to incorporate into their self-rule region.

The frequent discovery in recent weeks of bullet-riddled bodies dumped on the streets has raised the specter of a return of sectarian warfare.

On Thursday, authorities found eight men believed to be Sunnis in their 30s and 40s who had been shot to death in Mahmoudiya, a volatile town about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Bagdad, police and hospital officials said.

Then, shortly before sunset, a bomb exploded near a clothing shop in Baghdad’s northern Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, killing 12 people and wounding 32, authorities said.
Last Update: Friday, 27 June 2014 KSA 12:53 - GMT 09:53





Syrian rebel command sacked over graft claims


Free Syrian Army fighters take last instructions from their commander before they enter a Syrian Army base during heavy fighting in the Arabeen neighborhood of Damascus. (File photo: Reuters)
As the White House asked lawmakers to funnel $500 million towards moderate insurgents, Syria’s opposition government sacked the military command of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) late Thursday over corruption allegations, Agence France-presse reported.
Chief of the opposition government Ahmad Tohme “decided to disband the Supreme Military Council and refer its members to the government’s financial and administration committee for investigation,” a statement said.

The decision came amid widespread reports of corruption within the ranks of the FSA, which is backed by Western and Arab governments in its battle to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The government in exile said it was also sacking FSA chief of staff Brigadier General Abdelilah al-Bashir.

It called on “revolutionary forces on the ground” to set up within a month a new defense council and to fully restructure the rebel army’s command.

The news comes after nine top FSA officers resigned in June over shortages and mismanagement of military aid from donor countries.

Kerry meets Jarba

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba, who has long sought to form a stronger national Syrian army grouping all rebels, will be meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during trip to Saudi Arabia on Friday.
“Secretary Kerry will meet briefly with SOC president tomorrow in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” a senior State Department official said, referring to the Syrian National Council.
Jarba, president of the Syrian National Coalition, has sought to overthrow Assad for the past three years. In May, Jarba travelled to Washington to plead for more arms from the U.S. administration.
Kerry will fly to Jeddah from Paris where he met with Gulf allies and Jordan Thursday to discuss the widening crisis in Iraq, as well as the war in Syria.
He is also due to meet with Saudi King Abdullah to discuss the situation in Iraq and Syria.
Islamist militants, who have captured a swathe of northern Iraq, have also seized territory in neighboring Syria where they are fighting both the moderate opposition and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which aspires to create an Islamic state that straddles Iraq and Syria, has spearheaded the lightning jihadist offensive that has already captured territory north and west of Baghdad.
This has prompted President Barack Obama to ask Congress Thursday for $500 million to train and arm vetted members of the Syrian opposition.
Earlier this month, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice acknowledged that the Pentagon was also delivering “lethal” support.
(With AFP)


http://www.juancole.com/2014/06/russia-replacing-iraq.html



Is Russia Replacing US in Iraq?

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By Juan Cole
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday told BBC Arabic that he was buying used fighter jets from the Russian Federation and from Belorussia. He said it had been a huge mistake to depend on the US for arms purchases, since the US arms pipeline is extremely slow and F-16 fighter jets ordered some time ago still have not arrived.
Al-Maliki was likely also reacting to the attempt of US President Barack Obama to strong arm him into resigning from his office in favor of a national salvation government.
Al-Maliki is widely blamed for the debacle of the past few weeks, in which he has lost a third of his country to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Al-Maliki’s stubborn sectarianism and inability to work with Sunni Arabs pushed them over the edge.
Al-Maliki’s narrative is rather different. He maintains that his troops in the north and west lacked close air support because of American foot-dragging on weapons already paid for. Al-Maliki maintains that the jets can be in Iraq within 3 days, and can be deployed in bombing raids on ISIS positions in the north.
Al-Maliki also portrays the idea of a unity government as anti-democratic, since it sets aside such issues as which party won the most seats.
Determined to stay as prime minister for another four years, al-Maliki is seeking to accomplish several things at once. He wants to do an end run around Obama so as to avoid succumbing to American pressure to resign. He wants to impress Iraqi parliamentarians with his external contacts such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, so that they might support a third term for him. And practically speaking he wants to adopt the Syrian Baath’s model of dealing with ISIS, which is to bomb them intensively, both aerially and by artillery, even at the risk of extensively damaging the local urban environment and killing and making refugees of millions. That he is even talking about this strategy publicly is probably meant as a threat with which to menace Mosul.
Al-Maliki has changed geopolitical positions quite a lot in a decade. He had been bureau chief of the covert Da’wa Party in Damascus in the 1980s and 1990s and formed a deep dislike of the Syrian regime. When he first became prime minister in 2006, al-Maliki blamed all the bombings and violence in Baghdad on the Syrian government. Then after the Syrian attempted revolution and accomplished civil war, al-Maliki switched around and began supporting Bashar al-Assad, in fear of ISIS moving back from conquests in Syria to Iraq (he was prescient).
As for Russia, its predecessor the Soviet Union had been the patron of the Iraqi Baath Party in the 1970s and forward. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations had conspired with the Baath Party. In return for building it up, the Baath would crush the Iraqi communist party, of which American officials were universally afraid.
But after the Baath failed coup of 1963, it bided its time and in 1968 made a definitive coup. From the early 70s the Baath government allied with the Soviets rather than with the US (joining Syria, Libya, the PLO and others in the Steadfastness Front in the face of Israeli expansionism).
The Soviet patronage of Baathist Iraqis lasted until the Gulf War in 1990-91. Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev tried to mediate a bit, but in the end acquiesced in Bush senior’s war on Iraq.
Just as Putin has recovered the Syrian government as a client, so Putin seems to want to recover Iraq.
Putin is in a good position to pick up Iraq. Putin is consistent, hating the ISIS in Syria as much or more than the one in Iraq. Russia has fighter jets and helicopter gunships of sufficient firepower to hold ISIS at bay. Geopolitically, Russia is relatively close to Iran (Maliki’s backer as of 2010), as well as to al-Maliki’s ally, Bashar al-Assad.
Al-Maliki’s apparent desire to mimic the Syrian Baath Party’s tactics is misguided. The Syrian regime’s extensive shelling of Homs has reduced it to rubble. Al-Maliki told the BBC he had not asked Syria to bomb the ISIS positions at the Qa’im border crossing, but added that it was perfectly all right with him for foreign nations to bomb his own. The Yeltsin approach to Chechnya comes to mind.

http://www.juancole.com/2014/06/iraqi-sunnis-revolt.html


What Drove Iraqi Sunnis to Revolt and ally with ISIS?

By Charles Recknagel via RFE/RL
As Sunni insurgents have swept across northern Iraq, they have sought to win support by portraying themselves as the liberators of the country’s Sunni population.
One of their first acts after routing the Iraqi Army from Mosul on June 6-9 was to open up the gates of the city’s prison.
The symbolism was powerful: those freed, the insurgents claimed, were all victims of a repressive Shi’ite-led government that was persecuting the city’s majority Sunni population.
With such gestures, the insurgents — a mix of jihadists, Islamic groups, reinvigorated Baathists, and some tribal groups — hope to win support by capitalizing on deeply felt grievances within the Sunni community.
Here some of the key grievances and how they helped fuel today’s crisis:
Counterterrorism Law
The power of the insurgents’ Mosul prison gesture lay in Sunnis’ widespread belief that their community has unfairly borne the brunt of periodic security sweeps under a controversial counterterrorism law.
The Counterterrorism Law was passed in 2005 by an unelected parliament in the early years of the U.S. occupation, when Iraq faced a growing Sunni-based insurgency by loyalists of deposed President Saddam Hussein and Islamist groups. The law was never repealed and Sunnis say it is used today to keep their community under surveillance.
In January 2013, thousands of Sunnis took to the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere to protest what they said was the annual jailing of hundreds of innocent people under the law and their subsequent detention for years without trial.
De-Baathification
De-Baathification is the informal name for another law Sunnis say unfairly targets them: the Justice and Accountability Law.
The concept of barring higher members of the deposed Baath Party from prominent government posts dates back to the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003 and is included in the Iraqi Constitution. The current form of the law, most recently amended in 2008, provides for an independent Higher National Commission to continue de-Baathification indefinitely but also gives those expelled from their jobs the right to appeal.
Sunnis say the law has been broadly applied to exclude Sunnis in general from government employment. The Iraqi government disputes the claim.
The de-Baathification process was another rallying point for Sunni protesters in 2013, along with claims the government stacks public institutions with loyalists of Shi’ite religious parties as part of an extensive patronage system.
Arrest Of Sunni Politicians
Sunnis feel their community has been politically marginalized by the Shi’ite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
They were outraged when, the day after the last U.S. troops exited Iraq in December 2011, Maliki sought to arrest Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi under the Counterterrorism Law
The Interior Ministry ordered Hashimi’s arrest after some of his bodyguards reportedly accused him of running death squads during the height of sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007. The office of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, issued a statement saying he was “surprised” by the arrest warrant and Hashimi fled to the Kurdish self-rule region for safety. Hashimi later left Iraq and was convicted and sentenced to death in absentia.
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi fled into exile after being sought on terrorism charges.
A year later, Sunni anger deepened as 10 bodyguards of another top Sunni politician, then-Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, were arrested on terrorism charges. The arrests in December 2012 triggered 70 days of Sunni protest rallies, culminating in an enraged Issawi announcing his resignation from the government at a mass gathering outside Ramadi.
Suppression Of Protests
Sunni anger with the Maliki government transformed into sustained protests in 2013 with the construction of protest camps in many cities in the Sunni heartland. The protests, which at first focused on accusations of government corruption and inadequate services, received initial echoes of support in some Shi’ite areas.
But a government raid on a protest camp in Al-Hawijah in northern Kirkuk Province in April 2013 turned the protest movement increasingly into a showdown between militant Sunnis and security forces. Thirty-eight people died in the raid, which came after protesters refused to hand over militants suspected of the killing of an Iraqi soldier.
There were further deadly clashes in December 2013, when security forces raided a protest camp near the city of Ramadi in western Anbar Province. The fighting left at least 14 dead and Sunni insurgents subsequently seized parts of Ramadi and all of Fallujah.
By successfully holding onto Fallujah and parts of Ramadi against a government counteroffensive for almost six months, the insurgents gained momentum for their June 2013 military sweep through northern Iraq to capture Mosul and then drive south to the outskirts of Baghdad.
End Of The Awakening
Now that an Al-Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, aka ISIS), is in the vanguard of the insurgency, those who want to roll it back may hope for a new Sunni Awakening movement. That was the U.S.-sponsored effort to arm Sunni tribes to defeat Al-Qaeda during the earlier Sunni insurgency of 2006-07.
However, after the U.S. departure, the Maliki government ceased funding the Sunni Awakening in another move seen by Sunnis as intended to strip their community of power. The end to funding also resulted in a loss of salaries for thousands of young men, embittering them, and adding yet another grievance to the long list of complaints heard during the protest movement of 2013.
Now members of the Awakening movement, also known as the Sahwa, or Sons of Iraq, have to weigh their enmity for jihadists against their anger with Maliki.
In a first sign that some Awakening groups will support Baghdad, the head of the Awakening Council in Anbar Province, Abu Risha, said on June 14 that his men “have been fighting Al-Qaeda in Anbar for the past six months and we’re ready to fight for another six months, but we need American support.”
How many other Awakening groups will feel the same way remains to be seen.
Shi’ite Militias
Many Sunnis have an additional grievance with Maliki, and that is over what they say is his role in encouraging, or at least acquiescing to, the participation of Shi’ite militias in some state security operations.
The worst of recent examples was in late March, when security forces and militia members from Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a splinter group of radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement, entered the town of Bohruz in April and killed at least 23 people following a takeover of the town by Sunni militants.
The Sunnis’ hatred for Shi’ite militias was stoked by the sectarian violence of 2006-07, which brought the country to the brink of civil war in tit-for-tat bombings and shootings carried out by extremist groups on both sides. The intercommunal violence subsided but never disappeared, growing over recent months to levels not seen since 2008.
Former Glory
Finally, many Sunnis simply resent their loss of status following the change of the power balance in Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Under Saddam’s regime, the Sunni minority dominated positions of power but in today’s Iraq, power is held by the Shi’ite majority.
The nostalgia was visible in the protest camps of 2013, where Iraqi flags from the Saddam era were prominently displayed. It also has helped the banned Baath Party to reconstitute in the form of neo-Baathist groups, the best-known of which is the Jaych Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN). The JRTN is led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, who was the deputy of Saddam Hussein.
For now, the neo-Baathists are maintaining a battlefield alliance with the ISIL and other armed Islamist groups in a drive to make the Sunnis ascendant again.
For the Baathists, the goal is a secular, Sunni-dominated Iraq. For the ISIL, the goal is to establish an Islamist caliphate in Iraq and the Levant based on its own extreme interpretation of Shari’a, or Islamic religious law.





Kurds not going anywhere - as far as Kirkuk is concerned .....



Iraq's Kurds rule out retreating from Kirkuk

Massoud Barzani says ambition of incorporating city "achieved", amid growing calls for inclusive government in Baghdad.

Last updated: 27 Jun 2014 18:06
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The president of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq has issued a defiant statement to the Iraqi government that there was no going back on autonomous Kurdish rule in the oil city Kirkuk.
Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, made the comments at a joint news conference in Erbil with visiting William Hague, British foreign secretary, on Friday.
"We waited for 10 years for Baghdad to solve Article 140," he said, referring to the constitutional item which was meant to address the Kurds' decades-old ambition to incorporate the territory in their autonomous region in the north over the objections of successive governments in Baghdad.
"Now its accomplished because the Iraqi army pulled out and our Peshmerga forces had to step in. So now the problem is solved. There will be more no more conversation about it."

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Erbil, said Barzani's statement was expected to put more strain on the Baghdad government.
"The Kurds see themselves in a position of strength, and say the Iraqi government's pullout forced Peshmerga forces to fill the security vacuum," she said.
Kurdish forces stepped in when federal government forces withdrew in the face of a Sunni rebel offensive led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) earlier this month.
The Sunni rebels made the gains as Iraq's flagging security forces were swept aside by the initial insurgent push, pulling out of a swathe of ethnically divided areas.
The Iraqi army carried out airstrikes on Tikrit, and launched an assault on a strategic university campus on Friday to recapture the rebel-held city.
Exclusive video obtained by Al Jazeera showed damage inside the city after reports of Iraqi military helicopters flying commandos into the city on Thursday.
Several locals told Al Jazeera there were no rebels in the area and that the military hit targets indiscriminately.
Nouri al-Maliki, who has been Iraq's prime minister since 2006, has faced intense pressure to form an inclusive government and address the longstanding grievances of the Sunni and Kurdish communities.
Sistani urges unity
On Friday Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading Shia religious leader, became the latest prominent figure to distance himself from Maliki when he called on politicians to unite and choose a prime minister before parliament sits next week to begin forming a government.
Sistani, who commands unswerving loyalty from many Shia in the region, said the various political blocs should agree on the next prime minister, parliament speaker and president before the newly elected legislature meets on Tuesday.
Massoud Barzani: Flying the Kurdish flag
Under Iraq's governing system put in place after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the prime minister has always been a Shia, the largely ceremonial president a Kurd and the speaker of parliament a Sunni.
Dividing up the three posts before parliament meets would require leaders from each of Iraq's three main ethnic and sectarian groups to commit to the political process and resolve their most pressing problems, including Maliki's fate.
"What is required of the political blocs is to agree on the three [posts] within the remaining days to this date," Abdul Mehdi Karbalai, Sistani's spokesman, said during a Friday prayer sermon in the Shia shrine city of Karbala.
Maliki, whose Shia-led State of Law coalition won the most seats in the April election, had been positioning himself for a third term before the onslaught began.
Despite the turmoil and calls both domestically and internationally for him to step down, Maliki has said any attempt to undermine him would be tantamount to a "coup".