Iraq security matters

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“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Henry Ford
maps illustrating "disputed territories", KRG control objectives, Mosul Vilayet, ethnic composition, oil & gasfields,
 & "PKK areas"; for related maps & UNAMI data, see also:United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq

source: Telepolis
Mosul Vilayet Resolution (draft) Europepan Parliament

Iraqi Declaration 1932, Article 1
The stipulations in the present chapter are recognised as fundamental laws of Iraq, and no law, regulation or official action shall conflict or interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation or official action now or in the future prevail over them.

Iraqi Constitution, Article 140
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation
of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.
 Second: The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government
stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive
authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely
(normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk
and other disputed territoriesto determine the will of their citizens),
by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.

Minorities in Iraq: The Other Victims | Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line
Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003
Rapid Assessment of Return of Iraqis from Displacement Locations in Iraq & from Neighbouring Countries
Iraq’s Refugee and IDP Crisis: Human Toll and Implications | Iraq's three-region solution Petition
Analysis of proposed Kurdish constitution: An Insult to all Iraqis and a Formula for Regional Disaster
Common Project of the Opposition Parties for Commencing Political Reform in Kurdistan Region (arab version)
Iraq Workshop II   Dokan Delaration on Mosul Vilayet Senate (draft)

26 Oct 12   Oil majors back Kurdistan, Financial Post, Lawrence Solomon
22 Oct 12   Is Masud Barzani really a nationalist?, Kurdistan Tribune / MESOP, Michael Rubin
16.Aug 12   Ölförderung im kurdischen Teilstaat: Der Irak als erstarkende Erdölnation, NZZ, Gerald Hosp
13 Aug 12   Hussein Shahristani: Iraq Warns Total over KRG Oil Deal, Iraq Business News, John Lee
10 Aug 12   How, when and whether to end the war in Syria, Washington Post, Kenneth M. Pollack
7 Aug 12   Russia, Turkey quietly spar over Syrian Kurdistan, Al-Monitor / As-Safir, Mohammad Ballout
30 Jul 12   Massoud Barzani discusses oil, Syria and independence, Al Jazeera, Jane Arraf
12 Jul 12   ‘$265 million’ National Security Council: Nepotism not good governance, Kurdistan Tribune, Michael Rubin
1 Jul 12   Assessing Iraq's Oil Industry, MERIA, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
29 May 12   Iraqi Kurdistan: Death of an Uprising, Al-Akhbar / MESOP, Joe Dyke
10 May 12   Corruption scandals threaten to destabilise Iraqi Kurdistan, Guardian, Fazel Hawramy
7 May 12    Erbil Agreement content disclosed, The Kurdish Globe
30 Apr 12   Peter Galbraith: Time is Ripe for Kurdish Independence, Rudaw, HAWAR ABDULRAZZAQ
29 Apr 12    Maliki Given Ultimatum at Leaders Meeting in Erbil, RUDAW / MESOP, Hevidar Ahmed
29 Apr 12   Kurdistan’s Contest with Maliki Heats Up, EAWorldView / MESOP, Van Wilgenburg
29.Apr 12   Iraq on Brink of Disintegration As Rift With Turkey Deepens, Today’s Zaman, Gözde Nur Donat et al.
24 Apr 12   Iraq PM must not obtain F-16s: Kurdistan chief,, AFP, Abdel Hamid Zebari
24 Apr 12   Kurdish Leader Speaks Out Against Iraqi Premier, IHS Global Insight, Jamie Ingram
23 Apr 12   President Barzani ‘agrees’ to changes proposed by Awene editor, The Kurdistan Tribune, MESOP, Shwan Muhamad
21 Apr 12  In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity, NYT, TIM ARANGO
26 Mar 12   Turkey prepares for partition of Iraq, Sunday's Zanam, Abdullah Bozkurt
15 Nov 11   Ashti Hawrami: ALL ABOUT KURDISH OIL: Q&A, Iraq Oil Report, BEN LANDO
30 Oct 11   Neutrality no option in anti-PKK fight, Turkey tells Iraqi Kurds, Today's Zaman
7 Oct 11     No, Syria won’t plunge Iraq into war, The Daily Star (Beirut), Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi
30 Sep 11    Iraq’s politicians hover above the law, The Daily Star (Beirut), Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi
26 Sep 11   Will America leave Kurdistan?, MESOP, Michael Rubin
16 Aug 11   Oh Mother Kurdistan!, Obituary for Lady Hamael Mahmoud Agha Zebari, GOGEL
16 Aug 11   Happy 65th birthday to Massoud Barzani,, Anton Keller
16 Aug 11   88th Anniversary of aerial bombing of Sulaymaniyah, GOGEL
15 Aug 11   The Phantom Menace, NYT, DANIEL L. BYMAN
13 Aug 11   88th Anniversary of aerial bombing of Sulaymaniyah, Awene, GOGEL (in Kurdish)
12 Aug 11    Spring comes, but not for Iraq’s Kurds, The Daily Star (Beirut), Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi
11 Aug 11   Spring comes, but not for Iraq's Kurds, The Daily Star, Meforum, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
31 Jul 11   Kurds serve warning as U.S. withdrawal nears, Reuters, Jim Loney
31 Jul 11   Baghdad needs to keep the peace in Kirkuk, Gulf News
30 Jul 11   Iraqi sherpas: They Risked Their Lives, NYT, editorial
27 Jul 11   Kirkuk is a 'land mine' where all sides want U.S. to stay,, Roy Gutman
27 Jul 11   U.S. proposal to relocate 3,000 Iranian dissidents rebuffed,, Roy Gutman
22 Jul 11   Three keys to stability in the Middle East, letter to J.Biden, S.Peres, D.Mitterrand, T.Blair, KurdishMedia, GOGEL
13 Jul 11   Drawdown in Iraq, NYT, editorial
11 Jul 11   Panetta Presses Iraq for Decision on Troops, NYT, ELISABETH BUMILLER
3 Jul 11   Where's Kurdistan's missing $4 billion?, The Kurdistan Tribune, Michael Rubin
5 Jun 11   Of Blood, Oil and Kurdistan, National Interest, Joost R. Hiltermann
2 Jun 11   Iraqi protesters’ arrest sparks concern, Washington Post, Tim Craig et al.
28 May 11   Mock-democary, broken promises & self-serving policies do have consequences, Anton Keller
27 May 11   Self-determination, independence or federation,, Asad Khailany
25 May 11   International redress strategies,, Barry A. Fisher
24 May 11   Human Rights Watch: Iraqi Kurdistan: Journalists Beaten, Sued, Detained, Threatened With Death
24 May 11   No Arab Spring for the Kurds - if the current Kurdish leadership can help it, Christian Science Monitor, Dan Murphy
22 May 11   Voices from a Brave city, Sulemani,, Shenah Abdullah
20 May 11   Nawshirwan Mustafa: About the Crisis in Kurdistan,
18 May 11   Anger Lingers in Iraqi Kurdistan After a Crackdown, NYT, Tim Arango et al.
17 May 11   Reality vs. Idealism,, Mehdi Kordestani
16 May 11   List of victims of Sulaimanyia demonstrations, CSI
16 May 11   Ann Clwyd: Baghdad & Kurdistan authorities cracked down on peaceful protesters, House of Commons
16 May 11   KRG withdrawal from commitment to participate in dialogue meeting
11 May 11   Noam Chomsky: 'U.S. & its Allies Will Do Anything to Prevent Democracy in the Arab World',
10 May 11   IRAQ: In country's north, a youth-led 'Kurdish spring' blooms, Los Angeles Times, Maria Fantappie
7 May 11   Peshmerge Minister threatened Lvin Magazine’s editor by death penalty, Lvin Magazine
6 May 11    Kurdish conflicts threaten to upset Iraqi parliament's balance of power, Kurd Net, Yaseen Taha
27 Apr 11   Talabani-Barzani Military Junta will not halt the social revolution,, Mufid Abdulla
25 Apr 11   A cry to the international community from Iraqi Kurdistan,, Kamal Chomani
21 Apr 11   The contradictions of the Arab Spring, Washington Post , David Ignatius
19 Apr 11   Amnesti International: Independent investigation urged into police violence in Iraqi Kurdistan
19 Apr 11   Physical attacks, arrests subdue journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan, Reporters Without Borders
13 Apr 11   Iraqi Youths’ Political Rise Is Stunted by Elites, NYT, TIM ARANGO
12 Apr 11   Amnesti International: DAYS OF RAGE - Protests and repression in Iraq, report
28 Mar 11   Clashes Fuel Debate Over U.S. Plan to Leave Iraq, NYT, TIM ARANGO
24 Mar 11   Why Are People In Northern Iraq Protesting?, Bilgesam (repr. KurdishMedia), Arzu YORKAN
20 Mar 11   Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated, NYT, MATTHEW C. KLEIN
18 Mar 11   Respect for the Dead, Respect for the Living, UN workshop, Anton Keller
15 Mar 11   Overriding desire for democracy tops Arab youth agenda, Zawya
14 Mar 11   Campaigners demand president's apology for Kirkuk comments, Zawya, Bradost Lawin
9 Mar 11   80 Iraqi MPs threaten to suspend membership in parliament, Zawya, Fulaih al-Jawari
9 Mar 11   Opposition locked in Kurdish parliament after objection, Zawya, Hevidar Ahmed
9 Mar 11   Against corruption in Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Kurdistan Post, Plea to President Obama
9 Mar 11   Letter to US President Obama Against corruption in Kurdistan Region of Iraq,
8 Mar 11   Eight al-Iraqiya deputies announce split from bloc, Zawya, Abdullah Shames
8 Mar 11   Kurdistan ruling parties may reconsider running for elections jointly, Zawya, Dilshad Saifaddin
7 Mar 11   Najaf Council members vote for semi-autonomy, Zawya, Salah al-Khuzaei
7 Mar 11   Talabani: opposition is necessary for progress of Kurdistan, Zawya , Sarwa Hawrami
7 Mar 11   Iraqi govt. has few options to improve economy, Zawya , Laith Hadi
5 Mar 11   Official: Maliki hasn't order to withdraw Kurdish troops from Kirkuk, Zawya, Karzan Bamandi
5 Mar 11   "President, I don't need you": 126000 votes for Mr. Barzani to resign, CNN.ireport
3 Mar 11   Common Project of Opposition Parties for Commencing Political Reform in Kurdistan Region (arab version)
3 Mar 11   Barham Saleh says ready to resign to solve problems, Zawya
2 Mar 11   The tragedy that is Iraq, openDemocracy, Issa Khalaf
2 Mar 11   Pro-democracy demonstrations in northern Iraq/south Kurdistan, openDemocracy, Kamal Chomani
28 Feb 11   Sadrists launch referendum on public services across Iraq, Zawya , Raman Brosk
28 Feb 11   Turkish foreign minister: Kirkuk is the identity of Turkmans, Zawya, Hawar Baziyan
28 Feb 11   Declaration: Demands of Protesting People in Kurdistan, Committee of Maidany Azadi
27 Feb 11   Press Release, Arabian Political Assembly in Kirkuk
27 Feb 11   KDP second man in Kirkuk to cool down rage, Zawya, Sarwa Horami
27 Feb 11   Kurdish top politicians head to Kirkuk to settle unrest, Zawya, Ashti Khurshid
27 Feb 11   Kurdish ruling parties news statement on Kirkuk, Zawya, Sirwa Horami
24 Feb 11   Iraqi protests: aimed at changing the current regime?, openDemocracy, Shatha Al Juburi
24 Feb 11   Authorities in Iraq urged to allow peaceful protests, Amnesty International
23 Feb 11   Goran reiterates call for Kurdish govt. resignation, Zawya, Hazhar Mohammed
22 Feb 11   Shaho Saeed: The powers that be have no proposals for reforms in Kurdistan,
19 Feb 11   8 demands by protesters in Sulaimanyia, CNN.ireport
31 Jan 11   Gorran Movement: Current Situation in Kurdistan – Iraq,
1 Jan 11   Remarks to Lvin magazine seminar,, Michael Rubin
23.Dez 10   Exodus der Christen aus dem Irak, NZZ, Inga Rogg, Kommentare
12.Dez 10   Ein Ghetto für verfolgte Christen, NZZ am Sonntag, Inga Rogg, Kommentare
29 Nov 10   Iraq Petroleum 2010 with Tariq Shafiq
1 Aug 10   KDP To Sue Change Movement‘s Paper, RUDAW
14 May 10   The murder of the journalist Sardasht Osman in Iraqi Kurdistan,
7 Jan 10   Masrour Barzani: Iraq’s Security is Kurdistan’s Security, Jamestown Foundation, Wladimir van Wilgenburg
19 Nov 09    Resolving Iraqi Displacement: Humanitarian and Development Perspectives, Brookings, Uni Bern
16 Nov 09   Liberate Iraq’s Economy, NYT, FRANK R. GUNTER
12 Nov 09   U.S. Adviser to Kurds Stands to Reap Oil Profits, NYT, JAMES GLANZ, Editor's Note
11 Nov 09   Minorities in Iraq’s North Seen as Threatened, NYT, SAM DAGHER
10 Nov 09   War veterans make Iraq their business, FT, Roula Khalaf et al.
29 Oct 09   For Every Iraqi Party, an Army of Its Own, NYT, NAJIM ABED AL-JABOURI
23 Oct 09    Election Law, Kirkuk Gridlock, Combat Troop Withdrawal: Counting Backward, NYT, Editorial
13 Sep 09   In Anbar Province, New Leadership, but Old Problems Persist, NYT, SAM DAGHER
10 Aug 09   Report sees recipe for civil war in Iraq, Washington Times, Eli Lake
4 Aug 09   Iraqi violations of international cultural obligations - Turkmen case, UN Council of Human Rights, SOITM
4 Aug 09   Human Rights Abuses of Indigenous populations in Northern Iraq, UN Council of Human Rights, SOITM
26 Jul 09   Now It’s a Census That Could Rip Iraq Apart, NYT, ROD NORDLAND
23 Jul 09   Stability in Iraqi Kurdistan: Reality or Mirage?, Brookings Institution, Lydia Khalil, (full report)
21 Jul 09   British firm buys stakes in N. Iraq oil permits,, Bloomberg
21 Jul 09   Iraq's Northern Problem, The Washington Examiner, Michael E. O'Hanlon
16 Jul 09   Towards equal and non-discriminatory Iraqi citizenship, MVC, Anton Keller
16 Jul 09   What Iraq Needs More Than Oil: Water, Foreign Policy, ANDY GUESS
15 Jul 09   British Parliamentarians launch report on Kurdistan Region, APPG
15 Jul 09   Amnesty International condemns attacks on Christian minority in Iraq.
15 Jul 09   Seven Questions: Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, FOREIGN POLICY, Elizabeth Dickinson
11 Jul 09   Turkey won’t accept the Mosul carrot, Today's Zaman, GÜRKAN ZENGIN
11 Jul 09   Ankara dismisses proposals to unite with Iraqi Kurds, Today's Zaman
10 Jul 09   Turkey only ‘viable alternative’ for Iraqi Kurds, says ICG, Today's Zaman
10 Jul 09   Kurdistan Regional Government Minister: 'The best way forward: a new Mosul Vilayet', ICG, Today's Zaman
10 Jul 09   Kurds Defy Baghdad, Laying Claim to Land and Oil, NYT, SAM DAGHER
10/13 Jul 09   Turkmen & other Non-Kurds Oppose Sham Constitution for 'Iraq's Kurdistan':'It doesn’t augur well'
9 Jul 09   Iraq's oil & gas enhances Nabucco's viability, FT, Ed Crooks et al.
9 Jul 09   Iraqi Kurds sees Turkey as viable partner,
8 Jul 09   Iraq and the Kurds: Trouble Along the Trigger Line, International Crisis Group, Middle East Report N°88
7 Jul 09   Iraq: Is Another Conflict Inevitable?, PNA, IPS,  Mohammed A. Salih
1 Jul 09   Kurdish leaders are drunk with power, Daily Star (Beirut), Meforum, Michael Rubin
16 Jun 09   Autonomy and the Assyrians of Iraq, Nimrud Baito
10 Jun 09   Northern Iraq elections: the case for suspending them sine die, letter to H.E. Jalal Talabani, ICESC
10 Jun 09   Northern Iraq on way to unlock estimated 40 bn barrels of oil, FT, William MacNamara
28 May 09   Problems in the pipeline, FT, Anna Fifield
18 May 09   Tensions Stoked Between Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis, NYT, SAM DAGHER
15 May 09   Northern Iraq to pump first new oil since Saddam's fall, FT, Javier Blas
15 May 09   Can the election eliminate the domination of the 2 leading parties?,, Mufid Abdulla
12 May 09   Iran urges Iraqi action on Kurdish rebels, WP, Reuters
5.Mai 09   Kirkuk bleibt ein Zankapfel - UN-Bericht über die Lage in Nordirak, Neues Deutschland, Karin Leukefeld
1 May 09   Provincial Elections in Kurdish-administered region: reliability and concerns, SOITM
23 Apr 09   UN suggestions: share Kirkuk or give it autonomy, FT, Anna Fifield
22 Apr 09   U.N. launches report on Iraq's contested Kirkuk, WP, Reuters, Missy Ryan
17 Apr 09   For relocating 13000 Palestinians: Abbas seeks Barzani’s support, Kurdish Media, Mufid Abdulla
4 Apr 09   Joint minorities statement on KRG's Nineveh expansion plans, SOITM
29 Mar 09   Troops Arrest an Iraqi Ally in Baghdad, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN
19 Mar 09    Enabling Kurdish Illusions, Weekly Standard, Meforum, Michael Rubin
12 Mar 09   Kurds look anxiously for reconciliation, FT, Roula Khalat
Mar 2009   Nobody’s Client: The Reawakening of Iraqi Sovereignty,” lowy Institute Analysis, lydia Khalil
27 Feb 09   Responsibly ending the war in Iraq,” Camp Lejeune, President Barack Obama
26 Feb 09   Iraq’s Year of Living Dangerously, NYT, Michael E. O'Hanlon
26 Feb 09   Barzani rejects IHeC to supervise KRg elections," Hawlati, KurdishMedia,
11 Feb 09   Nineveh Plain Election Observation Mission, UNPO-ACE
2 Feb 09    “Reform in Kurdistan: What are the Reasons for our Disagreements?”, Nawshirwan Mustafa
30 Jan 09   Iraqi Elections Face Crucial Test in Violent Mosul, NYT, IAN FISHER
4 Jan 09   Disputed Territories in Iraq, Kurdistani Nwe, Roberta Cohen
Jan 2009   Minorities in Iraq: The Other Victims, CIGI Special Report, Mokhtar Lamani, comment
2009    “Preventing Conflict over Kurdistan,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Henri J. Barkey
27 Dec 08   Common goods in Islamic and Arab law - Questions on water. land and fire (oil), Sami ALDEEB
24 Nov 08   As Kurdish North Grows, Some Are Left Out, WP, Andrea Bruce
24 Nov 08   Appeal to President-elect Barack Obama to protect also Northern Iraq's Turkmen, Orhan Ketene
23 Nov 08   Kurds in N. Iraq Receive Arms From Bulgaria, WP, Ernesto Londoño
12 Nov 08   Pls trust me: "Our path to a secular, federal democracy is inspired by the U.S.", WSJ, Masoud Barzani
11 Nov 08   Kurdistan: the other - but not exactly exemplary - Iraq, FT, Anna Fifield
5 Nov 08   Salve Obama!, Washington Post, Iconoclast
22 Oct 08   Kirkuk Oil refinery: an overdue common denominator project, FT, Anna Fifield
8 Oct 08   The Misrule of Massoud Barzani: Iraqi Kurdistan's Yasser Arafat, World Politics Review, Sam Brannen
11 Sep 08   Iraq Cancels Six No-Bid Oil Contracts, NYT, Andrew E. Kramer & Campbell Robertson
5 Sep 08   Who Controls Khanaqin? Inside Iraq, al Jazeera,
19 Aug 08   Kurdish Control of Kirkuk Creates a Powder Keg in Iraq, NYT, RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
4 Aug 08   A Major Political Test for Iraq, NYT, editorial
28 Jul 08   Iraq's Technical Support & Production Service Contracts: Pros & Cons, ME Economic Survey, Tariq Shafiq
25 Jul 08   Iraq’s Refugee and IDP Crisis: Human Toll and Implications, Middle East Institute, Phebe Marr
9 Jul 08   'Easy Oil' in Kurdistan Spurs Wildcatters to Brave the Risks, Wall Street Journal, Neil King, Jr.
26 Jun 08   Iraq: Flourishing Corruption Under American Occupation,, Rauf Naqishbendi
22 Jun 08   Iraq Petroleum Company successors show up in Baghdad, NYT, editorial
17 Jun 08   1930 all over? Another Bad Deal for Baghdad, NYT, KARL E. MEYER
15 Jun 08   Comparative Analysis of Ministry of oil & Kurdistan fiscal terms as applied to the Kurdistan Region,” KRG, Pedro Van Meurs
5 Jun 08   History repeating itself: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control, The Independent, Ali A. Allawi
31 May 08   The Mideast Won't Change from Within, Wall Street Journal, MOHAMMED FADHIL
15 Mar 08   Kirkuk negotiations between Turkmen and Kurds, SOITM, minutes
7 Mar 08   Fact Finding Mission to Iraq’s Three northern governorates,” Finnish Migration Service.
1 Mar 08   Roadmap:Adopted Guidelines, Mosul Vilayet Council (Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish)
2 Feb 08   Kerkuk convention, SOITM
2 Feb 08   “Kerkuk Issue - unification of Turkmen message and project”, SOITM, workshop
1 Feb 08   Kurds’ Power Wanes as Arab Anger Rises, NYT, Alissa J.Rubin
Feb 2008   Rapid Assessment of Return of Iraqis from Displacement Locations in Iraq & from Neighbouring Countries, UNHCR
10 Jan 08   Benchmarks missed, the Goal is now 'Iraqi Solutions', WP, Thomas E. Ricks et al.
7 Jan 08   Is Iraqi Kurdistan a good Ally?, AeI online’s Middle Eastern Outlook, MEforum, Michael Rubin
9 Dec 07   Kirkuk Pot Heating Up as Arabs, Turkmen & Kurds Vie for Kirkuk’s Oil, NYT, Stephen Farrell
9 Dec 07   No External Peace Without Internal Balance, NYT, Thomas L. Friedman
5 Dec 07   KRG Deputy PM Fattah meets US Vice President Cheney,
2 Dec 07   Nonstop Theft and Bribery Are Staggering Iraq, NYT, Damien Cave
28 Nov 07   Baghdad must implement Kirkuk Article 140 of Iraq Constitution,, Nechirvan Barzani
22 Nov 07   Shiites in S. Iraq Rebuke Tehran, WP, Amit R. Paley et al., comments
20 Nov 07   KRG responds to Baghdad’s threats to oil international companies,
12 Nov 07   KRG signs five more petroleum contracts,
9 Nov 07   Mosul Vilayet: a Pathway Out of Mideastern Gridlocks, Today's Zaman, Anton Keller
6 Nov 07   Clouds Over Northern Iraq, Wall Street Journal, Norman Stone
6 Nov 07   Ministry announces 7 new, reviews 5 existing contracts,
5 Nov 07   Kurdistan's Hope for Talks, Washington Post, Nechirvan Barzani, comments
27. Okt 07   Die PKK fordert internationale Vermittlung, NZZ, iro
26 Oct 07   Bina Bawi - Northern Iraq, Petholding
24 Oct 07   Who's fooling whom: U.S. Officials Upbraid Kurds on PKK, NYT, RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. et al.
24 Oct 07   Iran accuses US of backing Kurdish militants on its border, Sydney Morning Herald, Richard Oppel
24 Oct 07   AKP BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD, EDM, Gareth Jenkins
23 Oct 07   PKK Battlefield Tactic Changes Reflect Political Goals, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Gareth Jenkins
23 Oct 07   Olmert pressed to give up supporting Iraqi Kurds, Today's Zaman, Ercan Yavuz
23 Oct 07   Make Walls, Not War, NYT, PETER W. GALBRAITH
22 Oct 07   Kurdistan as a model for Iraq, CFR's Greg Bruno interviews Falah Mustafa Bakir
21 Oct 07   PKK threat: attack us and we blow up Iraqi oil pipeline and tanker trucks, al-Sharq al Awsat
19 Oct 07   Local Foes Commit [again] to Peace in Baghdad, WP, Joshua Partlow
19 Oct 07   Turkish Bid to Pursue Kurds Poses Quandary for Iraq, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN
16 Oct 07   Slipping away,, Hussein Tahiri
16 Oct 07   Turkey Requests Authority to Attack, WP, Molly Moore
15 Oct 07   Iraqi Oil Spoils, NYT, editorial
15 Oct 07   The Kurdish example, Washington Times, Falah Mustafa Bakir
14 Oct 07   Cross-Border Strike Could Imperil Broader War in Iraq, WP, Molly Moore et al., comments
12 Oct 07   Observations on current Turkish-Iraqi border issues, Iconoclast
11 Oct 07   Worrisome Turkish-Kurdish Border Area, Washington Post, Joshua Partlow
11 Oct 07   Storm Warnings: Turkey-Iraq, newropeans-magazine, René Wadlow
11 Sep 07   KRG responds to Iraqi oil minister's recent statements,
10 Sep 07   Northern Iraq has what’s missing in Baghdad, NYT, Thomas L. Friedman
10 Oct 07   Erbil to host conference on Iraq federalism, The Globe - Erbil
8 Oct 07   Shifting Targets - The Administration’s plan for Iran, The New Yorker, Seymour M. Hersh
8 Oct 07   Reconciliation Seen Unattainable Amid Struggle for Power, WP, Joshua Partlow, comments
7 Oct 07   Syria Is Said to Be Strengthening Ties to Iraqi Opponents, NYT, HUGH NAYLOR
8 Oct 07   Shifting Targets - The Administration’s plan for Iran, The New Yorker, Seymour M. Hersh
6 Oct 07   Taking the lead on Iraqi oil, Wall Street Journal, Nechirvan Barzani
3 Oct 07   Federalism, Not Partition, WP, Joseph R. Biden Jr. & Leslie H. Gelb, comments
2 Oct 07 Kurdistan spearheads Iraq oil investment,
1 Oct 07   In Iraq, Repeated Support for a Unified State, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN, correction
29 Sep 07   Iraq Kurdish region says new oil deals are legal, Reuters, Simon Webb
29 Sep 07   Security may trump ethnicity in Kirkuk, Los Angeles Times, Borzou Daragahi
28 Sep 07   Official Calls Kurd Oil Deal at Odds With Baghdad, NYT, ALISSA J. RUBIN et al.
26 Sep 07   US Senate adopts non-binding Iraq Federalism Resolution with 75 yeas to 23 nays
24 Sep 07   Ray Hunt's Iraq Oil Deal Gets Everybody's Attention, Washington Post, Michael A. Fletcher
15 Sep 07   The tribal ways of Iraq, IHT, Arthur Lieber, letter to the editor
13 Sep 07   re: No longer tabu: League of Nations' role on Iraq, Anton Keller
13 Sep 07   The Ottoman Swede, NYT, ROGER COHEN
10 Sep 07   Dallas Oil Company Approved to Drill in Kurdistan, NYT, BLOOMBERG
8 Sep 07   KRG signs oil and gas contract with US-based Hunt Oil,
7 Sep 07   The Partitioning of Iraq, Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer
6 Sep 07   Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Law in Arabic and English, updated model contract,
1 Sep 07   The Kurdish Secret, NYT, THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
31 Aug 07   Abandoned at the Border, NYT, JOSEPH P. HOAR, Op-Ed Contributor
31 Aug 07   Shiite’s Tale: How Gulf With Sunnis Widened, NYT, DAMIEN CAVE
17.Aug 07   Rache, Referendum oder Religion? Nordirak destabilisiert, Telepolis, Peter Mühlbauer
10 Aug 07   U.S. Seeks U.N. Help With Talks On Iraq, Washington Post, Colum Lynch and Robin Wright
10 Aug 07   Jordan Yields Poverty and Pain for the Well-Off Fleeing Iraq, NYT, SABRINA TAVERNISE, video
8 Aug 07   Pressed by U.S., a Wary U.N. Now Plans Larger Iraq Role, Washington Post, Colum Lynch
6 Aug 07   Kurdistan Oil & Gas Law approved by Kurdistan Parliament,
4 Aug 07   In Iraq, a Perilous Alliance With Former Enemies, Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan
20 Jul 07   Why the United Nations Belongs in Iraq, NYT, ZALMAY KHALILZAD
17 Jul 07   Exit Strategies, WP, By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
15 Jul 07   UK Representation thanks KRG's British & international friends,
Summer 07   "Iraqi Kurdistan's Downward Spiral", Middle East Quarterly, Kamal Said Qadir
27 Jun 07   Pointing to Stability, Kurds in Iraq Lure Investors, NYT, Kirk Semple
11 Jun 07   Tribal Coalition in Anbar Said to Be Crumbling, Washington Post, Joshua Partlow et al.
8 Jun 07   A New Danger in Iraq, NYT, editorial
5 Jun 07   Then there is Plan "MC.", Informed Comment,  Anonymous
3 Jun 07   Moktada al-Sadr: An Enemy We Can Work With, NYT, Bartle Breese Bull, Op-Ed Contributor
31 May 07   Les Turcomans Irakiens: un people oublié ou marginalisé, France-Irak Actualité, Gilles Munier
30 May 07   Strife in North Iraq as Sunni Arabs Drive Out Kurds, NYT, Edward Wong
28 May 07   Militants Widen Reach as Terror Seeps Out of Iraq, NYT, Michael Moss & Souad Mekhennet
7 May 07   In Iraq, the Play Was the Thing, NYT, HUSSAIN ABDUL-HUSSAIN
May 2007   A Summary of Kurdish Linguistic Problems, KCDME, Ismet Sherif Wanli.
23 Apr 07   Kurds Cultivating Their Own Bonds With U.S., Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran
19 Apr 07   Iraq and the Kurds: Resolving the Kirkuk Crisis,” International Crisis Group, Middle East Report no. 64
12 Mar 07   Corruption: The Dark Underbelly of Kurdistan’s Dream,” Globe and Mail (Canada)¸ Mark Mackinnon
4 Mar 07   Iraq’s Mandaeans face extinction, BBC, Angus Crawford
11 Feb 07   Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003, Minority Rights Group Intern., Preti Taneja
2007   The oil and gas law of the Kurdistan Region - Iraq, law no. (22), KRG
2007    Oil and Gas Exploration and Production: Reserves, Costs, Contracts, Denis Babusiaux et al.
23 Dec 06   Shiites Remake Baghdad in Their Image, NYT, SABRINA TAVERNISE
21 Dec 06   Avoiding a Thirty Years War, Washington Times, Richard W. Rahn; a friend's comment
13 Dec 06   Kurdistan: America between the Turks and Kurds, The Economist
13 Dec 06   Turkish Kurds in Iraq: Lonesome rebels, The Economist
28 Nov 06   Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker, WP, Dafna Linzer et al., comments
24 Oct 06   Trying to Contain the Iraq Disaster, NYT, editorial
8 Oct 06   America ponders cutting Iraq in three, The Sunday Times, Sarah Baxter
28 Sep 06   Iraq's Kurds threatten secession over oil rights, FT, Steve Negus
17 Sep 06   The KDP and PUK: use it, loose it, or lose it,, Hussein Tahiri
Jul 2007   Torture & Denial of Due Process by the Kurdistan Security Forces, Human Rights Watch report 19
25 June 06   Solution: Break up Iraq; Reality: It's not so easy, NYT, Dexter Filkins
17 May 06   Iraq's Impending Fracture to Produce Political Earthquake in Turkey, PINR, J.P. Gundzik
16 June 06   The State of Iraq: An Update, NYT chart, Nina Kamp, Michael O'Hanlon & A.Unikewicz
10 May 06    Iraqi Federalism II - Answering Three Common Objections,, Ilya Somin
9 May 06   Decentralized Federalism in Iraq,, Ilya Somin
9 May 06   Three Iraqs Would Be One Big Problem, NYT, ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN
9 May 06   The Mother of All Mistakes, The Dignified Rant, Brian J. Dunn
9 May 06   The Prison of the Present, RealClearPolitics, Victor Davis Hanson
9 May 06    A decentralized Iraq is the necessary solution, National Review, J.R.Thomson & H.Hindawi
1 Mar 06   Red Lines Crisscross Iraq's Political Landscape, PINR, Michael A. Weinstein
1 May 06   Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq, NYT, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. and LESLIE H. GELB
26 Jan 06   Civil Society-in-the-Making - Massoud Barzani Style, NYT, Richard A. Oppel Jr.
21 Jan 06   Kurdistan Regional government Unification Agreement,” KRG
1 Feb 05   As Iraqis Celebrate, the Kurds Hesitate, NYT, PETER W. GALBRAITH
2005    The Turkmen Reality in Iraq”, Kerkuk Foundation, Arshad al-Hirmizi
2005    Reducing Ethnic & Religious Conflict through Political Decentralization, Al Sabah, Ilya Somin
6 May 04   America's Failed Foreign Policy and Iraq, Today's Zaman, Ibrahim Al-Marashi
18 Apr 04   The Last Iraqi Insurgency, NYT, Niall Ferguson
1. Mär 03  Nordirak: Kirkuk und der Kampf ums mesopotamische Öl, Junge Welt, Nick Brauns
27 Feb 03   Iraq's rich mosaic of people, BBC, Kathryn Westcott
21 Jun 02   Kurds regard Kirkuk as an integrated part of Kurdistan,, Robin Kurd
20 Jun 02   Beyatli: Kurds to attack Kirkuk when Iraq attacked,, Ken Muslimovic
1996    Question du feu (pétrol): res in usu omnium en Droit Musulman et Arab, Sami Aldeeb
Sep 1995   Hot Spot: Turkey, Iraq, and Mosul, Middle East Quarterly, Daniel Pipes
1991    The Iraqi Revolution of 1958: The Old Social Classes Revisited, Tauris London, R. Lewis et al. (ed.)
1988    Iraq: A Country Study, Library of Congress, Helen Chapin Metz, ed., The Ottoman Period, 1534-1918
1978    The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Princeton University Press, Hanna Batatu

Mosul Vilayet Council Workshop 28-29 February 2008
Guidelines as adopted on 1 March 2008 in Istanbul (Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish)


November 11, 2009

Minorities in Iraq’s North Seen as Threatened

ERBIL, Iraq — The policies and tactics of Kurdish authorities could expose minority groups in northern Iraq to “another full-blown human rights catastrophe” unless the minorities receive better protection, according to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch.

Members of the minority groups are being singled out by extremist insurgent groups and also are caught in the middle of a struggle for land and resources between Arabs and the central government on one hand and leaders of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region on the other, said the report, which was released in the Kurdish region’s capital, Erbil, and focused on Christians, Shabaks and Yazidis in Nineveh Province.

The extremist attacks have cost many hundreds of lives and, the report notes, “struck at the social infrastructure of minority communities, leaving victims and others fearful to carry on with their everyday lives.”

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said, “When you talk about wiping out a whole community that has been there since antiquity, it’s a looming catastrophe.”

The report is particularly critical of the policies and tactics pursued by Kurdish authorities who control Nineveh’s disputed territories through the heavy presence of their security forces and political party offices. The report describes how the Kurdish government has sought to repress minorities, subsume the identity of Shabaks and Yazidis into that of Kurds and sow rifts within the groups with bribes and patronage while suppressing dissent through violence, torture, arrests and killings.

The United States military has recognized the Arab-Kurdish conflict in northern Iraq as the main driver for continued instability in Iraq. The disputed territories extend from Sinjar in Nineveh, in northwestern Iraq, to Mandali in Diyala Province, in the east, and include the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

After a series of bombings in July and August against minorities in Nineveh that killed at least 143, wounded scores and flattened villages, the American military commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, announced plans to deploy United States troops along with members of the Kurdish pesh merga force and the Iraqi Army in the disputed areas to stop groups linked to Al Qaeda from exploiting friction between Arabs and Kurds.

With the exception of occasional joint operations and meetings between pesh merga and Iraqi Army officers that occur because of American insistence, no progress has been made in deploying the joint forces in the disputed areas or getting the Kurds and the central government to cooperate on security in a meaningful way, said Sheik Jaffar Sheik Mustafa, who is the Kurdish region’s equivalent of minister of defense.

Mr. Mustafa said the combined forces would be based throughout the north and conduct joint raids and patrols and staff checkpoints. He said the Kurdish authorities had agreed to the idea but opposition was coming from Baghdad and the Arab-led provincial government in Nineveh, which see the arrangement as an infringement on their sovereignty and want Kurdish troops to retreat from the areas they occupy outside their region’s 1991 border. “I think this joint force is crucial at this juncture,” he said.

A senior American official in Kirkuk said he was optimistic that the joint force would ultimately become functional. A representative of the United States Embassy in Baghdad said that “in tandem with an ambitious push to improve security for all in the province, including embattled minorities,” American officials were working to resolve a political standoff between Sunni Arabs and Kurds in Nineveh’s provincial capital, Mosul, that has exacerbated the situation.

After its victory in the provincial elections in January in Nineveh, a Sunni Arab-led coalition excluded the second-place Kurdish coalition from all senior posts in the new local government and demanded that the pesh merga leave the Nineveh areas they controlled. In response, the Kurds boycotted meetings of the provincial council and used force to prevent the Arab governor and other senior officials allied with him from entering parts of Nineveh.

Mr. Mustafa said the joint forces must include Americans in order to secure the area and carry out Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which outlines the mechanism for resolving the fate of disputed territories. Kurds are clinging to it, but Arabs reject it.

“We will not give up one inch of the areas that we occupy until Article 140 is implemented,” Mr. Mustafa said. He dismissed the findings of the Human Rights Watch report as “false.” He said that there might have been violations committed by individual Kurdish security officers against minorities in Nineveh but that this did not reflect the policy of the Kurdistan Regional Government.    May 14, 2010

The murder of the journalist Sardasht Osman in Iraqi Kurdistan

This report is written by a group of people who are experts in different walks of life, which focuses our minds on the main issues that need to be addressed in the case of kidnapping and killing of the young Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman in the regional capital controlled by KDP. It is the duty of the Kurdistan authorities to address these issues. However, on Friday, the KDP politburo issued a statement which diverted the attention from the main issues and attempted to start an internal conflict with Goran movement. It will be wrong for Goran to fail in this trap. Despite the KDP statement, these issues are outstanding and it is for the KRG authorities to address them. Otherwise the credibility of the KRG is seriously under question.

The sequence of events
According to relatives and friends, Mr. Osman was abducted by a group of men in a white minibus immediately after he was dropped off on Tuesday morning, 4th May 2010, by his brother Sardar Osman opposite the main entrance of the liberal arts college of the University of Salahaddin. He was to have graduated from the university in June with a degree in English.

Sardar Osman, who said he did not see the kidnapping, said that his brother got out in front of the Fine Arts Institute, where at least half a dozen soldiers from the well-trained Zerevani unit, which is under the control of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), guard the gate at all times.

Another brother, Beshdar Osman, said that his brother received a threatening phone call in January, telling him to leave Erbil. “The reason was his writing,” he said.

On Thursday, 6 May 2010, Bashdar found the remains of this brother, bearing signs of torture and gunshots in the head, in the suburbs of Mosul province, which is outside the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but where KDP maintains an influential presence.

The pieces of the puzzle  - First: Is Iraqi Kurdistan penetrated by terrorists?
“This work is beyond the capability of one person or one small group,” read a statement issued on Thursday, May 6th, 2010, and signed by 75 Kurdish journalists, editors and intellectuals.

Can an external group penetrate the city, kidnap a journalist student during the daylight in a public area and transfer them across the KRG borders? The New York Times on May 7th, 2010 elaborated further: Some Kurdish journalists and Mr. Osman’s friends accused members of the security forces, which are controlled by the parties, of direct involvement in the crime. Reporters without Borders on May 6th, 2010 provided another explanation: The city of Erbil, where Osman was kidnapped, is mostly controlled by the KDP, whose leader, Massoud Barzani, is Kurdistan’s President. His son, Masrur Barzani, heads the KDP’s security services.

Second: Are vehicles unchecked during inter-governorate travel?
Kidnappers will have to travel through security checkpoints to reach Mosul from the regional capital Erbil. Can an external group pass a kidnapped individual in a vehicle and move via all the security checkpoints, including the main one, which is on the regional border with Iraq? The simple answer is this: it is almost impossible. The statement by 75 Kurdish journalists gets close to answer this questions: “To kidnap a journalist in the regional capital; taking him outside the Kurdistan region; and killing him, raises serious questions. This act cannot be done by one person or a small group of people. We believe the Kurdistan regional government and its security forces are responsible first and foremost and they are supposed to do everything in order to find this evil hand.”

Third: Who controls the KRG capital, where the abduction occurred?
Erbil and Duhok and controlled by Kurdistan Democratic Party, which is led by the president of Kurdistan region, Mr. Masoud Barzani.

Fourth: Why was Sardasht Osman murdered?
The Committee to Protect Journalists provided the answer: Osman’s brother, Bashdar, told CPJ that he was convinced that Sardasht was killed because of a critical article he wrote in the independent daily Ashtinam in April about a high-ranking Kurdistan Regional Government official. “In the last few months my brother received a number of phone threats, demanding that he stop meddling in government affairs,” he added.

Fifth: Are KRG officials honest to their constituents?
There is a discrepancy in the statements of Abdul-khaliq Ta’lat, the chief of Erbil police. After receiving threats, the late Sardasht Osman wrote that he contacted the officer Abdul-khaliq Ta’lat, the chief of Erbil police about death threats he was receiving; and yet the very chief of the police, on 04 May 2010, told the pro-KDP website that, “up to now, we have not information about kidnapping of Sardasht [Osman], and we did not know that he was threaten before”.

But Sardasht Osman wrote an article on 21 January 2010, entitled ‘The first bell of my murder rang,’ stating: “Yesterday, I informed the dean of my college about the insult and death treats that I received last night [on my mobile]. The dean informed me that this is a police issue. I wonder whether there is a country on this planet that students receive death threats and yet the college [staff] don’t care, and sit pathetically. I was not shocked as I have known for sometime that the colleges in this country are not our place of peace. After that, I contacted the officer Abdul-khaliq Ta’lat [chief of Erbil police]. He told me, “the mobile number [from which your receive threats] is perhaps from overseas, or you have a personal issue. Is it possible that [these threats] may be repeated for a number of times, while Erbil is calm, and these things hardly happen in Erbil? In humorous smile, I wondered if these threats are from [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy. How could I be reassured when it is only few days when a friend of mine was assaulted and forced out of the city?”

But still, the Chief Tal’at claims that he was not aware of the threats that Sardasht Osman was receiving via his mobile.

Sixth: Why the silent in the official media outlets?
There was hardy any report in the official or party media outlets. The daily Khabat newspaper, which is backed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) reported on its 3465 issue, dated: 07 May, 2010 that the remains of the Kurdish student were found in Mosul province on the 6th of May, 2010.

According to Khabat, Sardasht Osman was the student of the English college of the University of Sallahadin in Erbil. On Tuesday, 04 May 2010, he was kidnapped by a group of people and was found killed in Mosul. The security and police agencies of Kurdistan Region have opened an investigative case and will report the result to the authorities.

It is interesting to note that, unlike all other news reports, the pro-KDP news item describes Sardasht Osman as student, and not as journalist, and additionally ignores the fact that he was kidnapped by armed men in Erbil, the regional capital which is under a strong control of the KDP security forces controlled by only certain members of the ruling Barzani clan

Seventh: Similarities between the murder of Soran Mam Hama and that of Sardasht Osman
Both the lates Soran and Sardasht are native Kurds. They were known for their critical writings on the KRG officials. Both received threats before slayings occur, and both were murdered outside the KRG region. However, the late Soran was a resident of Kirkuk, which under the control of the Iraqi central government, and was killed in his hometown. The late Sardasht was a resident of Erbil, which is under the control of the KRG, and was kidnapped and transferred to Mosul, which is also under the control of the central government.

Unless these issues are addressed by the authorities in Kurdistan the current civil outrange would keep its momentum.

Jamestown Foundation    Vol 8/1    January 7, 2010   01:47 PM

Iraq’s Security is Kurdistan’s Security:
An Interview with KRG Intelligence Chief Masrour Barzani
By: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

    According to Masrour Barzani, director of the Ajansi Parastini Asayishi Heremi Kurdistan (Kurdistan Region Security Protection Agency) of northern Iraq, Kurdish security agencies have the legal right to operate outside of the borders of the three provinces of the Kurdistan region. Barzani is the son of the current president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani.
    Barzani is also a leading member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which established the Parastin (“Protection”) agency in the late 1960s as the intelligence arm of the KDP. Barzani is also director of the Parastin, which became a legal institution in 2004 and focuses on intelligence gathering, while the KRG’s Asayish counterterrorism and internal security directorate has executive power and carries out operations against security threats. After 9/11, the KRG established an umbrella organization that coordinates between the security and intelligence bodies of the KDP and the Dazgay Zanyari (“Information Agency”) of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the KDP’s onetime rival and current partner, now led by Jalal al-Talabani, President of Iraq.
JF: Why is Iraq’s Kurdistan region so safe? You can go out late at night here, while the Kurdistan region borders with dangerous areas like Mosul, Kirkuk and the Sunni triangle.
    MB: This is a collective work of all people involved in providing security for this area. But the main reason is the culture of our people and our region. The people in the Kurdistan region do not support radicals or extremism. There is very good cooperation between our agency and our people. The support we get from our people is the key.
    [There is also] the good system and mechanism that we have put in place, so that all organizations that are working in this field are closely coordinating and have joint centers to share information and to perform according to different situations that come up and to respond and face the challenges that we have.

KRG Intelligence Chief Masrour Barzani

JF: The Kurdistan region borders Kirkuk and Mosul. Some say the Sunni Arabs have grievances against the Kurds. Do you have a policy of accommodation towards the Arabs?
    MB: This is a political decision. The Kurdish leadership has been trying tirelessly and will [continue to] try to make sure that this conflict will never become an ethnic problem between the Arabs and the Kurds. After 1991, there were more than 70,000 Iraqi troops that surrendered to the Kurdish forces, but the Kurds did not [take] revenge despite the fact that the wounds of the chemical bombardments and Anfal campaign were still fresh in the Kurdish mind. [1]
    Secondly, there was a major drought here and in the rest of the country and many Arab tribes asked for Kurdish support. President [Masoud] Barzani called on the Kurdish leaders and requested that if Arabs want to come, they should make a good gesture and open our land to them.
    The third instance was in 2003, after the fall of the Saddam regime, [when] the Kurds were the only organized people with the most power at hand; they could really do much more [politically] than they did. They left all disputed, outstanding issues to the political process and to the Iraqi government to solve this problem, rather than taking over. The Kurds showed that they were here to create peace, harmony with other components in Iraq.
    That is the intention of the Kurdish leadership and what our agency is also advocating. We are not there to do any harm to anyone based on their ethnic backgrounds. Our mission and duty is to fight terrorists. If someone happens to be a terrorist, they are treated as terrorists, not because of their religious or ethnic background.

JF: In the last elections in January 2009 the Sunni Arab list al-Hadba won the majority in Ninawa Province. Is this a threat to Kurdish security?
    MB: When al-Habda won the majority in the last provincial election, they decided not to include any Kurdish representatives that had won votes in their districts. [2] It was the decision of al-Hadba that the Kurds should not be part of the Mosul government. They decided to boycott the Kurdish representatives in their own local government.  The Kurdish reaction was not to participate if they are not included in the government. It was their choice.
    The Kurds have not been complaining much. Despite atrocities and allegations and complaints against the Kurds, the Kurds have not been so vocal and bold, complaining about their situation. This is not widely reported in the international community, but the truth is that Kurds are still victims of ethnic cleansing in Mosul and many of the disputed territories where the Kurds are not well protected.

JF: Is this one of the reasons you also operate outside of the Kurdistan region, because of the huge attacks against Kurds in Ninawa, while the Iraqi government does not want you to operate in the disputed regions?
    MB: There is not a clear indication of who should run those areas in the disputed regions, because the fate of those areas is not yet clear. So we have to expedite the process of implementing article 140 to determine who will be responsible for the security and the political affairs of those areas. [3] For as long as these areas remain in ambiguity, there will be a problem or challenges [over] who controls these areas.
    In the areas that are predominantly Kurdish, the Kurdish security forces and Kurdish administration have the right to protect their constituencies and Kurdish populations from the threats we have witnessed [bomb attacks against Kurds]. In those areas, we have tried and have expressed our willingness to closely coordinate and cooperate with other legal institutions in those areas, namely our Iraqi military, security or police and the Coalition forces, for providing security. So it is a joint effort to protect those people in these disputed territories. More recently there have been attempts to form joint committees.

JF: A New York Times editorial says Kurdish troops should be reintegrated into the Iraqi army, while Kurdish President Barzani has called for a unified Kurdish army. [4] The United States is also trying to integrate the Kurds into the Iraqi security apparatus. How do you see this?
    MB: Most of that stems from misunderstanding the Iraqi constitution or misreading it. The President never said he is going to create an army. He said he is going to reintegrate the armed forces of the Kurdistan region rather than having different groups [with] their own forces. That is his idea of creating the unified armed forces of the Kurdistan region. That does not  mean it will be an army. Iraq will have one army. The Kurds were the very first ones who formed the core of the Iraqi military when nobody was willing to become an Iraqi soldier. Some of the Peshmerga [Kurdish militias] already joined the Iraqi army. If there is a need to reintegrate more troops, then obviously this is something which will happen.
    Now when you look inside the security of Kurdistan, according to the Iraqi constitution, Kurdistan has the right to be responsible for the internal security of Kurdistan. It is the responsibility of the Kurdistan region to provide that security. Kurdistan is part of Iraq, so if we have security [forces] operating in the Kurdistan region or other parts of Iraq, that is security operating in Iraq collectively.
    Once Kurdistan is secure and you have security forces operating in Kurdistan, they should be included in the overall defense policy of Iraq because Kurdistan cannot be seen as a separate entity—it is part of Iraq in terms of rights and duties. Protection of Kurdistan in this region is therefore protection of a part of Iraq. For as long as Iraq is a united country, obviously this is the mission of all of us to protect the country in the best possible way we can. When you look at the defense policy of Iraq, there is a budget that is supposed to be spent on defense, which is distributed from the overall budget. So this also should include the Kurdistan region, but unfortunately, until now the Kurdistan region has been deprived of this budget.

JF: The White House declared it would support Article 140 and Article 142 (on constitutional amendments) of the Iraqi constitution. Some say it is a clear signal of U.S. support for the Kurdish position on Kirkuk. But on the other hand, you have people saying that President Obama wants a special status for Kirkuk.
    MB: Well, I am not in the position to be speaking on behalf of the Americans, but they tell you what is right. Iraq has a constitution; this constitution determines which way we should move to solve outstanding issues with the federal government. The best solution for the disputed territories is what the Iraqi constitution laid down through Article 140; it is very clear. The constitution should be the only way forward to solve those outstanding issues.
    Every other article, including article 142, whatever is in the constitution, we have accepted that constitution. Most Iraqis, 80% of the Iraqis voted for that constitution. So we cannot be selective in picking one article or ignoring another.
    There is a mechanism in the Iraqi constitution on how the amendments should be made.  As long as we are committed to protecting and implementing the constitution, there should be no problems. The problems arise when there are alternative solutions to the constitution that have been pushed from time to time. These types of efforts are complicating the issue and they are contrary to the principles of democracy. This is running away from the principles of the constitution. As long as the constitution is the arbitrator, I do not think anybody would have any problems with it.

JF: So in general, you are saying we should support the Iraqi constitution, while the New York Times says that the United States should not support Article 140, because the Kurds will use Kirkuk as a stepping-stone for independence. [5]
    MB: My question to them: Do you want democracy or do you insist that the Kurds should never get Kirkuk? My question to those people who wrote that article is this, are you against the Kurds in Kirkuk? What you are saying indicates that although there is a democratic process and the Kurds will probably win, we should not let them win.  This is against democracy; this is hypocrisy… They have to make up their mind, do they believe in democracy or not?
    And why it is perceived that Article 140 is pro-Kurdish, who knows? Is there any indication in Article 140 that favors the Kurds? No. Article 140 asks for normalization of the situation, which means undoing the injustice to the people in Kirkuk. Conducting the referendum means letting the people of Kirkuk make the decision of where they want to be in the end; whether part of the Kurdistan region or not, either way it will still be part of Iraq.
    Why is there so much sensitivity over why Kirkuk should not be part of the Kurdistan region? Is it a separate state? Is it different? No. They have to understand that Iraq, which includes Kurdistan, is one country. Kirkuk being [part of the Kurdistan region] or not, it would not make a difference. Kirkuk would still be part of Iraq. I am calling upon the conscience of the international community to make a judgment. OK, we have a democratic process and now they say you cannot apply the democratic process to this problem because they do not like the results beforehand.

JF: The conclusion of some foreign analysts is that if Kirkuk becomes part of the Kurdistan region, Iraq could fall apart.
    MB: OK, can you make important decisions based on assumptions?  Then how can they give themselves the right to make such important decisions based on assumptions, but they will deprive or prevent the Kurds or forbid the Kurds to make similar assumptions. The Kurds will also assume that they do not want a solution, because they have in mind to once again overrun the Kurds or to repeat the Anfal operations [or] repeat chemical bombardments.

JF: Human Rights Watch says Kurdish security agencies mistreat minorities and Christians in Mosul, while the Christians support the Kurds in general. What’s your response to this?
    MB: We say, let the facts speak.  Our counterargument is: the majority of the Yezidis, Shabaks, Christians and Turkmen [ethnic and religious minorities] have voted for the Kurdistan list in the Kurdistan region, in Kirkuk and in Mosul.  So, I do not credit these critics, who are criticizing and accusing the Kurds of mistreatment.
    OK, here is a question to them: If Kurdistan is so bad, why do so many Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, Shabak and Yezidis who are fleeing those areas which are known for violence [come] to Kurdistan to seek protection, security and stability? We have the facts to speak. Everybody can say what they want, but they have very little to prove.  We have much [evidence] to prove [our case] and many facts on the ground. We are not in need of talking so much.

1. Anfal was the codename of the brutal and repressive campaign carried out against the Kurds of northern Iraq by forces of Saddam Hussein between 1986 and 1989.
2. Al-Hadba is a Sunni Arab political party formed to reduce Kurdish influence in the contested governate of Ninawa.
3. Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, related to the means of determining the status of contested areas of the Ninawa, Diyala, Kirkuk and Salah al-Din governates. Article 140 also seeks to normalize the situation in these areas by undoing the administrative changes and demographic policies introduced by Saddam Hussein.
4. “Iraq, the Kurds and the Americans,” New York Times, December 17, 2009
5. Kirkuk has significant oil reserves that could provide the financial basis of an independent Kurdish state.

RUDAW    August 1, 2010

KDP To Sue Change Movement‘s Paper

The front-page story of Rozhnama which says KDP and PUK illegally take $ 250 million form oil being smuggled to Iran. This article has led the newspaper to be sued by the KDP
IRAQI KURDISTAN, ERBIL: The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani has sued a newspaper belonging to the Gorran-or Change- Movement for a billion-dollar compensation after it had published an article detailing KDP’s alleged involvement in “oil smuggling” to Iran.

The lawsuit was filed by Fazil Mirani, head of the political bureau of the KDP, on July 25 in the Erbil’s Investigative Court and sent to the newspaper Sunday. It said the paper published a story aiming to harm the reputation of the party.
The Rozhnama’s article published on July 20 had said that both KDP and its ruling partner, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, take more than $ 250 million a month from the benefits of the oil being exported to Iran via tankers on daily bases.
The PUK has not showed any reactions to the story yet. But the KDP’s sue includes a demand to even close the weekly newspaper.
KDP considered the story “baseless” and demanded a billion US dollars from the writer, editor-in-chief and the concessionaire of the paper.
“We have enough evidence to prove any information mentioned in the report,” said Sirwan Rashid, the writer of the story who is also the managing editor, complaining that the KDP’s sue violates the Media Law of Kurdistan passed in 2008 since it asks for the closure of the newspaper and a heavier fine.
Rozhnama has been acting more as a mouthpiece of the opposition movement, Gorran, since the July 2009 elections in which it secured almost a third of the seats of 111-member Parliament of Kurdistan.
Gorran is a break-away movement from Talabani’s PUK led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, former deputy leader of Talabani’s party. Gorran run in the both Kurdish and Iraqi elections as an independent list.

Mohammed A Salih
  has been writing on Kurds, Iraq and the wider Middle East region for several years. He has done reporting from Iraqi Kurdistan, Washington D.C. and Turkey. Salih obtained a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2010 as a Fulbright scholar. He has been working as an editor and reporter for Rudaw since October 2010. He has written, among other places, for Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, Al Jazeera English, The Nation magazine and BBC News website.     January 1, 2011

Remarks to Lvin magazine seminar
By Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Senior Lecturer, Naval Postgraduate School

Sulaymani, Kurdistan, Iraq, December 20, 2010    -    I would like to begin by asking for a moment of silence in memory of Soran Mama Hama and Sardosht Osman, two courageous journalists who were murdered because they sought a free press and equality under the law for all in Iraqi Kurdistan. Thank you. They will not be forgotten.

I also want to thank Lvin for organizing this seminar. I am honored to come to Kurdistan as a guest of a truly independent organization, rather than simply as someone who was invited by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Ten years ago this month, while I was a lecturer at the University of Sulaymani, I gave my first seminar in Iraqi Kurdistan. I spoke about American politics and the election of 2000 which was, at the time, still undecided. Today, I will talk about another topic: The Kurdish lobby in the United States and how the Kurdish government might become more effective in its American outreach.

Today, Kurds do not have an effective lobby in Washington. This should be obvious. Right now, relations between the United States and Turkey are at their worst in 50 years. The Wikileaks documents demonstrate this. Many people in the United States talk about Turkey more as an enemy than an ally. Why, then, has the Kurdistan Regional Government been so powerless to develop a strong relationship between the United States and Iraqi Kurdistan? It is necessary, however, to acknowledge the strengths of Iraqi Kurdistan:

The region’s development is amazing. I have been coming to Iraqi Kurdistan for a decade. When I first arrived, there was great uncertainty among Iraqi Kurds. The threat of Saddam Hussein loomed over the region. In December 2000, for example, Saddam’s forces probed international resolve around Baadre. A professor at the University of Salahuddin which the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s foreign relations office assigned as my point-of-contact as I adjusted to Kurdish society quietly excused himself, saying he was afraid that if he helped an American, he could suffer consequences once Saddam returned.

Let us fast forward ten years. I have been very critical of rampant corruption and nepotism on the part of the major Kurdish political parties, and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s increasing repression. Nevertheless, it is also true that Mam Jalal, Hero Khan, and Barham Salih deserve credit for the region’s development. It is good to see that Gorran leader Noshirwan Mustafa, former Sulaymani governor Dana Majid, and the rest of the Gorran leadership have both continued and built upon this legacy. Kurds and Americans must also thank the peshmerga, whose courageousness in the face of Saddam Hussein, enabled the opportunity which Iraqi Kurds enjoy today.

Freedom is not consistent across Iraqi Kurdistan, however. Sulaymani enjoys more openness than other areas of Iraqi Kurdistan. The difference between Sulaymani and Erbil today, for example, is analogous to the difference between Lebanon and Syria. Neither is completely free, but Lebanese have far more civil space than Syria, which remains a police state.

It is a credit to Sulaymani that two days ago, courageous students, intellectuals, and ordinary people stood up against the Kurdistan Regional Government’s law restricting peoples’ right to demonstrate. Peaceful public protest can only happen in Sulaymani; it is no longer possible in Erbil or Duhok.

Iraqi Kurdistan has long considered the United States an ally; it is no secret that Iraqi Kurdistan is the most pro-American region of Iraq, at least for now. Why, then, is the Kurdistan Regional Government failing in its relationship with America? Why does the United States not support the Kurdish position more?

There are several reasons.
First, the Kurdish leadership fails to maintain both dignity and credibility. Too often, the leadership of the Kurdistan Regional Government will say “We are a democracy.” Democracies, however, do not murder journalists and then lie about it. Democracies do not threaten independent newspapers with $1 billion lawsuits, sue writers who pen critical editorials, or bankrupt journalists who ask tough questions. Nor do democracies have one set of laws for the children of party leaders, and another set of laws for ordinary people.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s declarations of entitlement also play poorly. Too often, the Kurdistan leadership says, “We are your allies. You owe us.” It is true that the Kurds were great American allies in 2003. Americans appreciate this. Americans have also helped protect the Kurds in 1991, actions we should have replicated with regard to the Shi‘a. Americans

Certainly, the Kurds were American allies in the war in 2003. Americans appreciate this. And Americans have helped the Kurds, helping to protect the Kurds in 1991 as we should also have protected the Shiites. Americans defended the no-fly zone. Kurds may not understand why, in such circumstances, Americans do not trust the Kurdish leadership more, and why our partnership with Iraqi Kurdistan is not stronger. The problem is not with the Kurdish people, but rather with the Iraqi Kurdish government. Sometimes officials in Washington have private conversations with Kurdish leaders. The words are meant to be between Sar-e Rash and the White House. Within one hour, it seems, however, that senior Kurdish leaders betray the American confidence to Qasim Sulaymani, the Iranian Qods Force general who is responsible for plotting the murder of Americans. Too often, it seems, senior Kurdish officials see American confidence as something to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Americans are guilty as well. A corrupt American policeman or a corrupt American army colonel can come to Kurdistan and become a prince. They may tell officials they are well-connected in Washington. But if they are known as thieves in Washington, then people ask, “Why does the Kurdish leadership surround itself with such dishonest people?”

The Kurds say they have no friends but the mountains. Certainly, the root of this quip is the repeated betrayal which Kurds have suffered. In 1975, for example, Henry Kissinger withdrew American support from the Kurdish uprising without regard to the human cost of his decision. The Kurds, however, are also responsible for their lack of true friends. Kurdish officials—especially party members—act crudely toward Americans and other foreigners.

In 2000-2001, I spent an academic year in Iraqi Kurdistan. While the Kurdish authorities provided me with a place to stay and a small allowance for food, I did not receive a salary from the Kurdistan Regional Government, nor did they fund my university program or think-tank, nor did I seek to be included in their ever-expanding circle of advisors. My time in Iraqi Kurdistan was instead financed by a small grant from the Carnegie Council for Ethnics in International Affairs (

I advocated a close Kurdish partnership with the United States because I saw it as an American interest. I advocated effectively for Kurdish human rights and to raise awareness about the threat Saddam Hussein posed to Iraqis of all ethnicities and religions. I also wrote about ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk, the aftermath of the genocidal Anfal campaign. By comparing Iraqi Kurdistan under sanctions with the rest of Iraq under the same sanctions, I was able to show that the problem in Iraq was not sanctions, but the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein.

That was not good enough for many Kurdish officials and party members, because I did not agree with them completely, nor was I willing to conduct their propaganda blindly. I recognized the growing corruption in Kurdish society and, even though I know my position may not be popular in this room, I also disagreed with many Kurdish officials with regard to the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers Party] which both then and now the American government classifies as a terrorist group. We can debate that issue another day. My point is that I agreed with Kurdish authorities perhaps 75 percent of the time. Too many Kurds, however, say, “You either agree with us 100% of the time, or you are our enemy.”

Now, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Region President Masud Barzani are sophisticated. But many members of Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are not. Mid-level officials think, “I will attack this American. I will say that he is a Turkish agent, or an Israeli agent, or that he hates Kurds.” They believe that if they badmouth foreigners, that they can impress Talabani and Barzani with their loyalty. This has happened not only to me, but also to many other Americans.

Make no mistake: This is one reason why Kurds lose friends. As Republicans lost popularity before the 2008 presidential elections, Kurdish officials in the United States began to attack Republicans; they found a new hero in Senator Joseph Biden, who would soon become Vice President. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative in Washington even went so far to send an article on his office’s email criticizing the Republicans for liberating Iraq, in order to please Democrats who said Republicans lied in order to invade Iraq. Now, two years later, as Democrats suffer in the polls, they attack Biden and praise Republicans. Such behavior may work in an autocratic society, but it does not in a democracy like the United States. The people whom the Kurds attack—even if they do so only in Kurdish and only behind the backs of their victims—never forget. Certainly, American officials will continue to conduct their relationships with professionalism, but cold professionalism and friendship are not the same.

This brings us to another point: American politics. Many Kurdish officials ask: “Who is better for the Kurds, the Democrats or Republicans?” My answer is this is the wrong question to ask. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is something for Americans to worry about. Why should a Kurd, unless he is an American citizen, care? It would be wrong for such a Kurd to pick one party or another, just as it would be wrong for me to support any Kurdish political party.

Make no mistake: I am not a Kurd, and so I will never support the KDP, or PUK, or Gorran. As an American policy analyst, I will look at Kurdish politics only through the lens of American interests. When I criticize the Kurdistan Regional Government’s corruption, nepotism, ballot-stuffing, and repression of civil society, I do so because I fear if these problems are not corrected and if Kurds associate them with U.S. support for the Kurdistan Regional Government, then anti-Americanism will grow.

So if Kurds should not favor the Democrats or the Republicans, how should they approach American politics? Kurds should look at individual American politicians and ask who supports the Kurdish position on Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution? Who supports the Kurdish position on oil? Who understands the Anfal? Who stood for the Kurdish people against Saddam in the past and who will oppose other Saddams now and in the future? If the Kurds do this, they will find they can have friends in both political parties, and that, therefore, their interests will be secure regardless of from which party the U.S. president comes.

Let me give you another example. The Democrats did very well in the 2008 elections which saw Obama win the White House. I am a Republican and wish the Republicans had won, but the American people spoke, and so I will respect President Obama as my commander-in-chief. Not every race was settled on November 4, 2008, however. In Georgia, there was a run-off election between a Democrat and Republican. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s office in Washington helped organize support for the Democrat because they wanted to please Obama. This was a bad strategy for two reasons: First, the Republican in Georgia won. Perhaps he now sees the Kurds as his opponents. Now, two years later, the political calculus in the United States has changed. Republicans are resurgent. We are not Erbil or Duhok: More than one party is allowed to win. By playing American politics two years ago, the Kurdistan Regional Government risks its influence after 2012.

Despite past mistakes and miscalculations, there are ways in which the Kurdistan Regional Government representation in Washington can augment Kurdish interests. The Kurdistan Regional Government invites many retired generals, many businessmen, and many writers to Iraqi Kurdistan. This is a good idea: The more people that are exposed to Iraqi Kurdistan and, for that matter, the rest of Iraq, the better. But, Kurdish authorities mismanage these visits. When Americans visit Iraqi Kurdistan as guests of the Regional Government, all they do is see one minister after another, and have feastjs at every stop. Americans already know that Kurds make the best kabobs. But, is that really why the Kurdistan Regional government is spending millions of dollars to bring Americans over? Isn’t Kirkuk more important? Why not bring American delegations to Kirkuk, to learn about its history and its importance to the Kurdistan Region today? Why not bring Americans to places that suffered during Anfal besides Halabja? I know that the Anfal was not just in Halabja, but most American visitors do not. The Anfal wiped out dozens of villages and Saddam Hussein’s government used chemical weapons on a number of occasions. As tragic as the Halabja attack was, the Anfal was not limited to 5,000 people in Halabja.

I have limited time and there is much more to discuss, but I want to leave time for questions. So with that, I thank you. Zur Spas.

CNN.ireport    February 19, 2011

Today the peole of Sulaymani spoke and release a number of demands before they end the protest in the City

1-       Pull back all the mobilized armed forces from the cities.
2-       KRG to announce the killing is against the law and it is a Red Line for everyone.
3-       Justice to serve it is roll in prosecuting the killers of February 17, 2011.
4-       A televised Apology by Mr. Masood Barzani to the people of Kurdistan for what happened in Sulaymani.
5-       In order to calm the situation down all the headquarters of the political parties to be taken out from the city forever.
6-       Dismantle of all the militia forces.
7-       KRG to announce and prove it is independency from the political parties as a legitimate independence organization.
8-       Release all detained personals which whom arrested in the last few days and due to the current protests.    February 22, 2011

The ruling parties of the region have frankly declared
that they have no proposals for reforms in Kurdistan
Dr. Shaho Saeed (Translated from Sbeiy.Com website)

Representatives of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Gorran (Change) Movement, Kurdistan Islamic Union and Kurdistan Islamic Assembly gathered at the Government Council headquarters to discuss the situation in Kurdistan Region and in particular the recent developments in Sulaimany. Afterward the Prime Minister, Dr. Barham Salih, in a press conference announced that the meeting was a good start for a national dialogue. He also added that Gorran Movement insisted on their 7 demands as declared in their statement of 29th January.

Dr. Shaho Saeed, member of Kurdistan Parliament and one of the delegates representing Gorran Movement stated that “Gorran Movement have never shrink from the principal of dialogue. Accordingly, we took part in this meeting, the discussions in which centred around two main themes. The first theme was concerning the wave of protests that have engulfed wide areas of Kurdistan region. The second theme was concerning the political crises that underlined the wave of protests.”

He added that “We in Gorran believe that the events are the consequences, the cause of it is the chronic crisis that has been festering for years, despite of our repeated warning and submitting several proposals to address the crisis, including the radical proposals that we submitted in August last year to reform the political system of government in Kurdistan region, which echoed the election manifesto upon which Gorran Movement fought the Parliamentary elections of 25th July 2009.”

Dr. Saeed insisted that “We have said over and over that the government should address the needs of the public before those of the political parties. It is very important that they listen to the concerns of the people before they do to those of the political parties. We, in Gorran Movement, made it clear that our demands are not Gorran’s demands but are the people’s demands. We believe that the government should listen to these demands along with the demands of the individual political parties. And from this point of concern we reiterated our 7 demands and explained that this government of Kurdistan Region, which we believe have failed, should resign and to be replaced be a transitional provisional government that can pave the way for a genuine election free from falsifications. We also insisted the provisional government should be given the mandate during its’ 3 months tenure to reorganise the armed forces such as the Asayish (Security Forces), Police, Peshmerga (Kurdistan Army) Zanyary (PUK’s Intelligent Services) and Parastin (KDP Intelligent Services) and render it National Forces as appose to partisan organisations. We believe that the reorganisation, renationalisation and professionalization of these forces would be achieved through two formulae; the first formula is to change the function of these forces from the function of defending the interest of the political party to the defence of the security of the homeland and the people of Kurdistan. The second formula is to replace the directors and executive layer of these forces with independent, professional and qualified individual and not appointees of political parties. If the transition al government is able to achieve that then it will be able to oversee the running of a bona-fide election.”

He also added “We also argued at the meeting that we should reach an agreement in the immediate future to redraft the constitution of Kurdistan Region within a given time frame and amend those laws that have secured the majority threshold in the Parliament but still exert adverse effect on the political system. We also renewed our demand for the restoration of the ownership of all of the public and private properties that have either been arrogated by the political parties or by individual associated with these parties, or been appropriated in return to very low prices.”

Dr. Saeed explained, in connection to the possibility of emergence at the meeting of an accord and a common understanding that merit further discussions that “in fact there was some form of understanding began to emerge when we argued that the events are only consequences and we should tackle the causes that underpins this crisis that persisted in Kurdistan. If we eradicated corruption then people’s protest against it would dissipate. But we noticed that the other parties, especially the two ruling parties, were more concern with containing the current situation. But we pointed out that we have come to attend a political meeting that is searching for political solutions and not a security assemblage. None of us in this meeting is a security officer or an army general to discuss these matters. We are politicians representing political parties and we ought to discuss political agreements. The security matters are primarily the concern of the government and the ruling parties who are responsible for the safety of the protestors and to listen to their demands.

In reply to the enquiry whether if they have agreed upon further meeting of this kind, Dr. Saeed insisted that: “We have not agreed on any meeting such as the one we had today. We asked them that, just as we in Gorran Movement have our proposals to resolve the crisis, they as political parties should also submit their own proposed agenda. But they have frankly stated that they have no proposals for reforms in Kurdistan. The Prime Minister even elaborated that probably no serious efforts for reforms would be made in Kurdistan Region in the next 6-12 months.”

Amnesty International    February 24, 2011

Authorities in Iraq urged to allow peaceful protests

Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi government and the authorities governing the northern Kurdistan region to allow peaceful protests and rein in their security forces ahead of nationwide demonstrations called for tomorrow, Friday, by groups calling for an end to corruption and better government services.

The organization made this call after Iraqi and Kurdish security forces were reported to have used excessive force against protests inspired by the events in Tunisia and Egypt in several parts of Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, leading to at least six deaths. In Baghdad, one activist involved in organizing a peaceful anti-corruption demonstration on 14 February, was detained and held at an unknown place for five days. There, Oday Alzaidy says, he was tortured with electric shocks.

Amnesty International urges the Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to ensure that excessive force is not used against protestors and, given the latest reports of abuses against detainees, to take concrete steps to end the pattern of torture that has so long persisted in Iraq.

Since the first demonstration on 14 February in Baghdad there have been spreading protests across Iraq by people calling for an end to corruption and for better public services, such as water and electricity supplies and other basic needs.

On 16 February three people were reported to have been killed and dozens injured when security forces opened fire on protesters in the city of Kut in Wasit governorate. There the protestors came onto the streets to demand an end to corruption and better services.

On 23 February, security forces raided the offices of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, a Baghdad-based NGO, after it called for a demonstration tomorrow in support of "free speech and media freedom".

In the northern Kurdistan region, three semi-autonomous provinces ruled by a coalition of Iraq's two main Kurdish parties, a 15-year-old boy was among three people killed by a rmed militia of one of those parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), in Sulaimaniya. Again, the protestors were demanding an end to corruption, said to be rife in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

There have also been attacks on the media - the headquarters of a newly established TV and radio station were burnt down - and further demonstrations took place in Suleimaniya on 23 February. This remained peaceful, despite a large security forces presence, after members of local NGOs known collectively as the White Group stood up between the army and the protestors and offered flowers to the soldiers.

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Arabian Political Assembly in Kirkuk
27.Feb. 20121

Press Release

in the current crtical situation which come to exist after 25 of Feb.demonistration and kiddnapping of a number of Arabian youth and throuing their bodies after killing them into the suburb of Kurkuk..then sapreeding the Peshmarga forces by orders from Kurdish leaders .
Fter discussing the situation with the members of Perlaman and the representative of Arab and Turkman and Kurkuk asembly we insist of the following points :
-    That the demonstration of last Friday was peasful and their demands were ligitimate and right ,for this we call upon to have a posative reply to them
-    making the peshmarga and scurity forces to bear the responsibilty of kiddnaping and killing those victimes
-    The sentreal government should hold their responsibilty in Kurkuk and must form a special committee to investigate on what happined in Kurkuk province
-    the Iraqi perlament must form and send immediatily a special committee to investigate and prepear a report abput what were happined
-    we insist on the main demand of the Arabs to kick out the kurdish and security forces from Kurkuk as soon as possible
-    the demonstration of Kurkuk people will bee continued until these demands will fullfilled
-    Giving not the description of the leader of the operation to the Kurkuk Police Top Officer and solving this problamatic formation by the way of forming new operation room in Kurkuk and tobe giving to a militery leader from Baghdad

Committee of Maidany Azadi    February 28, 2011

Declaration: Demands of Protesting People in Kurdistan

The following are the demands of Kurdish Citizens after the event of Feb 17th:

Instantaneous Claims
1. Recognizing Kurdish civil rallies as a legitimate force representing peoples' demands to have their representatives engaged in decision making processes regarding crucial issues
2. Preventing imposition states of emergency in rural and urban areas, such as segregation and blockade acts and deployment of forces within the borders of cities or establishing military basis inside cities and towns.
3. Releasing official announcements by Kurdish government, parliament and president of Kurdistan Region to take into account the protesters' demands and work on undertaking real steps for realizing them
4. Establishing a joint committee composed of members from government and parliament to come together with demonstrators' representatives to determine convenient mechanisms and a time-frame to respond to protesters' demands.
5. Prompting release of detained protesters and preventing arresting protesters and rally organizers.
6. Prosecuting all people who engaged in crimes of killing and injuring demonstrators in open court hearings and then releasing court decisions in media.
7. Withdrawal of all armed forces which were mobilized and deployed to suppress the demonstrators.
8. Immediate summon for Kurdish Ministers of Interior, Peshmerga (guerilla) and the Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region to Parliament session to be questioned under Article 1 of Kurdistan Region President Law who violated this Article and ordered the deployment of armed forces which is supposed to be within the scope of Kurdistan Region President powers.
9. Driving out political parties' headquarters from inside cities and towns.
10. Establishing feeling of tranquility and safety among Kurdish citizens and assure them that no any patriotic or governmental army or any armed forced will be deployed against Kurdistan cities and towns or against any opposite parties.
11. Giving official apology to the protesters by all members, parties and Media that called protesters "anarchists" including influential power members and opposition members.

Crucial Claims
1. Reviewing Kurdistan Region Constitution to draft a new Constitution based on democratic elements to consolidate and protect all civil, political and legal rights of people and to be recognized officially; announcing separation of powers and respect independency of the powers. Moreover, set up convenient mechanisms to counter all forms of abusing power; amending Kurdistan Region President Law to include nominating the President only by the Parliament.
2. Developing an intensive plan to establish judicial sovereignty and law enforcement.
3. Separating political parties from government in a way the government will not remain a utilized instrument by political parties. The government must stay an independent institution to advocate of all people equally.
4. Dissolution of political parties' militia troops and prevent parties to have partisan forces, intelligence and espionage agencies, and eliminate guards and armed forces that belong to political headquarter which should also be protected like all other citizens' safety by the local security forces.
5. Handing over Ministries of Interior & Peshmarga, Defense, and Directorates of Security & Police to neutral and well qualified people to bring to an end the political affiliations in these institutions practically.
6. Abolishing such forms of ruling parties that predominate communities and make decisions on behalf of the public; Replacing this form of party to a polling party founded on basis of bringing out a political vision to people without interfering affairs related to the government, unions, and professional institutions.
7. Not passing any draft of any law in the parliament before prior deliberations and consultations by the people and before taking into account peoples' recommendations.
8. Giving back all public and private properties seized or occupied directly or indirectly by individuals or groups or sold for nominal charges, by which the Law of Leasing and Selling State Properties, 32 issued in 1986, has been violated
9. Utilizing Kurdistan National wealth and budget to serve the well-being of the Kurdish people in a way to establish social equality and equity.
10. Interrogating about all fortunes and properties owned by political parties and government officials in a way to give back all obtained fortunes illegally and investigating the ways of accumulating their wealth.
11. Revealing all Kurdistan Region revenue to public opinion including natural resources such as oil and fuel and also disclose Kurdistan Region governmental bank account statements inside the country and abroad.
12. Canceling the pension system of parliament members, ministers, general directors and province council members to consider years and degrees of services and to reduce their salaries by 50%.
13. Establishing an Integrity Committee officially according to Law, beyond the executive power and Parliament to include neutral and well qualified people.
14. Respecting and showing ccommitment towards dependency of all governmental and financial departments, universities and keep all official powers in Kurdistan Region Government away from any political interventions.
15. Cutting off any bonus granted from public funds to political and unofficial institutions or media agencies.
16. Pending effectiveness of Kurdistan Region Law about organizing demonstrations till passing a new law to respond to public opinions in Kurdistan Region
17. Improve living standards of all social classes to include workers, government employees and others, based on International standards to provide worthy life for people.
18. Disclosure and determine destinies of those who fell victims of interior conflicts and lost in prisons and to be compensated by the party that was responsible for it.
19. Making use of documents by Financial Surveillance Bureau to disclose corruptions and to interrogate and prosecute those involved in corruption acts, and legislate a law to fight corruption as well as punishing corrupt persons.
20. Provide health and social insurance for all.
21. Enacting a law to counter gender discriminations and combat any form of violence against women.
22. Increasing the rate of matrimony loan to be adapted with cost of living, minimum loan for now should be 10,000,000, ten million Iraqi Dinars.
23. Establishing administrative courts in all cities of the region to be a part of Judiciary authority not belonging to Kurdistan Region Government.
24. Providing contemporary housing based on loans for all citizens with no advance payment to be paid back on monthly installments.
25. Provide contemporary nurseries and kindergartens for children for free and allocate a sum of money for every child till they reach the age of 18.
26. Reduce taxations and charges imposed in all Kurdistan region departments by 50%.

- Parliament and Kurdistan Region Government are committed to take immediate actions to respond officially to the Instantaneous Claims within 48 hours of issuing this statement.
- Regarding Crucial Claims, official bodies should declare their plans officially for the public from now to 4th, March 2011.
- Ad hoc committee teams are responsible to work constantly on collecting street demands to be put together in an inclusive document.

Ad hoc Committee of Maidany Azadi
(Liberation Public Square)

(arab version)
March 3, 2011
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Common Project of the Opposition Parties
for Commencing Political Reform in Kurdistan Region

1. Sending the draft constitution of Kurdistan back to Kurdistan Parliament in order to be revised and approved on the bases of consensus among the parliament fractions (Opposition parties and Kurdistan Collision)
2. Establishing Kurdistan High Elections Commission from independent professionals based on agreements among the various political fractions (the opposition parties and the parties in power)
3. Forming the Commission of Integrity of Kurdistan Region from independent professionals based on agreements among the various political fractions (the opposition parties and the parties in power). The commission must persecute those accused of corruption
4. Issuing a specific law for fighting corruption
5. Inserting amendments in Kurdistan Parliament Mandate based on consensus among the various political fractions (the opposition parties and the parties in power)
6. Inserting amendments in Demonstrations Law based on consensus among the various political fractions (the opposition parties and the parties in power)
7. Unifying and professionalizing both directorates of security in a way that makes them receive orders from the Ministry of Interior
8. Unifying and professionalizing all security agencies of Ministry of Interior
9. Unifying and professionalizing Kurdistan Peshmarga Forces in an impartial military foundation
10. Confirming impartiality and independence of Kurdistan Jurisdiction and Appeal authorities in its current structure represented by Supreme Judicial Assembly and Court of Appeal
11. Activating Attomey General' s agency, and separating that agency from the Ministry of Justice, and linking it with the High Judicial Committee
12. The political parties and VIPs have to return all the properties that belong to the public sector
13. Modifying (Zanyari 'Information', Parastin 'Protection' and Dizha Tirror 'Terror Fighters') agencies from political parties' agencies to national security agencies based on professionalism and impartiality, directly linked to the Presidency of Kurdistan Regional Government
14. Reorganizing the relationship between political parties and the government in a way that prevents all forms of political intervention in the works of the government and the judicial authority
15. Changing the ministers of Peshmarga, Interior, Finance, and Natural Resources and their deputies, to be replaced by impartial and professional people
16. Confirming the independence of the universities and other higher education establishments
17. Announcing all the sources of revenue and distributing it in a transparent and just allocation of the budget  ..
18. Amending the provincial council law, and granting more authority to that council as basic steps towards administrative decentralization
19. Prohibiting political activities in all the agencies and premises of Ministry of Peshmarga and Ministry of Interior
20. Ending all forms of financial support for the media outlets and shadow media outlets that belong to the major political parties in power, as weIl as those organizations that misuse the public property with the pretext of mobilizing the civil society
21. In case of not complying with the above-mentioned points during the period specified in article 22 of this announcement, the President of Kurdistan Region has to dissolve the parliament, announce early elections, and establish a nationally unified government that can run the affairs for that transitional period
22. Necessary laws and decisions have to be issued on each of the above¬mentioned points within one month to be implemented within two months from the date of announcing this project

Movement for Change
Islamic Group in Kurdistan
Kurdistan Islamic Union

CNN.ireport    March 5, 2011

"President, I don't need you": 126000 votes for Mr. Barzani to resign

            As soon as the Campaign "President, I don't need you" was declared by the student in the University of Sulaymani-Kurdistan-Iraq on February 28, 2011, Mr. Ahmad Mira, the Head Writer for Lvin Press Magazine took it upon himself and opened a polling station online to collect "Yes to Barzani's resignation" data, backed by people's voice. What was surprising in this poll, just shortly after the polls were opened in the first day, thousands of People were visiting the online location and voting. In only the first day 3,966 People have said yes to Barzani's Resignation.

However, the poll did not stop there. So far, Today, Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 10:15AM US-Std. Central time, the number of "Yes" data have reached 126,389 ( One hundred Twenty Six Thousand and three hundred eighty nine).

What is left now is for Brazani to show up on Kurdistan TV and announce his resignation for the People of Kurdistan, "if he is a leader and a man of his words and promises", as the People of Kurdistan are saying.

Despite the outcome of whether Barzani will resign or not, the people of Kurdistan are serious in their demands and like the people of Egypt and Tunisia, they will continue to protest and nothing will stop them until their will and demands are met for better life, peace and real democracy, which can only be achieved by dismissing the armed militia and political parties, as a first step. And restart of a fair election and installation of a new Parliament which can only be the voice of People not the political parties.     9 March 2011

Kurdish People against corruption in Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Honorable President Barack Obama
Honorable Hillary Clinton U.S Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
Washington D.C.

Your Excellency is aware that Kurdistan region of Iraq are controlled by two families of Barzani and Talabani. As your predecessor the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once told Massoud Barzani that you are running Cowboy Government in Kurdistan.

Indeed both Barzani and Talabani are above the laws in Kurdistan. The US Government is supporting people in the Middle East, Asia and the World at large to achieve democratic system and rule of laws peacefully.

As we know the region of Kurdistan is part of Iraq and two mafia families are running all the affairs in the region and controlling every aspect of life. Demonstrations are spreading now in Iraqi Kurdistan, the same scenario of Egypt, Tunis, Libya and the region.

Now in the city of Suliamanya - Kurdistan and the region around it, where Jalal Talabani and his family are in control, people from every way of life are demonstrating against corruption, violence and dictatorship.

So far over 200 people are killed and wounded during these demonstrations since February 17th, 2011.

With regard to the city of Erbil - Kurdistan, Massud Barzani and his family are using iron feast to control the population. His militia of Barzani family is terrifying the civilian in the city. In this city they are not allowing anybody to come out for demonstration peacefully against them. And they are going to arrest them right away or killing them the same way Libyan leader Mummer Khadafy does.

Both Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Kurdistan Parliament are not functioning anymore and they are just two tools for the interests of both Massud Barzani and Jalal Talabani's families.

As the Kurdish people understand that the US Government is responsible according to the charter of UN mandate with regard to Iraqi People protections. The US Government is fully responsible in Iraq, including Kurdistan region as well. So we are asking you to intervene to stop the killing, arresting and harassing people in our region by Barzani and Talabani militia. The sad things is that both Talabani and Barzani families have a special force called anti-terror and supported by USA administration and US army had trained them in the fight against terrorists, but they are using these forces against unarmed Kurdish civilian people. And they are intimating and kidnapping civilian people and also these forces had burned two independent TV stations(Nalia TV and KNN TV) and two independent radio stations (Goran Radio and Dang Radio) so far and threatening other radio stations such Nawa and Garmyan radio station and other independent newspapers.

While these criminals acts have done by anti-terror force of Jalal Talabani and Massud Barzani and supported by USA and US tax payers. The US were paying them 5 million dollars a month until the end of 2008.

Now Kurdish people are wondering while President Obama supporting people of Egypt, Tunis, Libya and another countries in the region, for their freedom and democracy, but he is silent to these two mafia families in Iraqi Kurdistan as they are suppressing our people every day.

We ,the Kurdish people, are urging your administration to send your envoy to Iraqi Kurdistan to get familiar what is going on there and ask your Government to put pressure on both Talabani and Barzani and their militiamen to stop harassing, kidnapping and killing innocent people and allowing them to express their voice and their human right freely in Kurdistan.

We are waiting for your action and you have moral responsibility to help Kurdish people and save them from both mafia families.

Kurdistan Post on behalf Kurdish people

March 18, 2011

Respect for the Dead, Respect for the Living
by Anton Keller, Secretary of the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers
statement delivered at the 23th Halabja Commemoration held at the UN Geneva Office, March 18, 2011
Human Rights Situation in Iraq, Missing Persons & Victim Compensation
 sponsored by Al-Hakim Foundation, CHAK, RADDHO, Interfaith International

Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have just seen a film on the victims of Saddam's use of chemical weapons against the civilian population of Halabja on March 16/17, 1988. And our Austrian colleague, Dr.Gerhard Freilinger, has followed up with medical reports on his experiences with Iranian soldiers who, during the Iraq-Iran war, fell also victim to Saddam's mostly foreign-supplied chemical weapons of mass-destruction.

I am impressed by these showings. In fact, I find myself compelled to deviate from my prepared statement not least in light of yesterday's adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 against another surviving small Saddam who - hélas - reportedly still has some five tons of Mustard gas with which to terrorise his own people and to blackmail the world. But when considering these events, we also should take into account the well-hidden but credibly reported use of these barbaric terror weapons by British pilots who sought to put down the Kurdish uprising of 1920 ( And our leaders and we, as sovereign citizens and observers, should remember and be remembered of things past. For, as the saying goes, those who do not know where they come from, risk not to really know even where they want to go, much less how to positively influence the course of events.

The ultimate fate of each of us is death. And whether it occurs as a result of an accident, or by intent of one-self or of others, for those around us, for our families and friends, it is always a catastrophe. As is the case with the uncertainties associated with missing persons, such as the still-festering politically motivated kidnapping in 2006 of the son of our co-panelist Sheik Salar Al-Hafeed(.../sarwar.htm). That characteristic does not change when death occurs in multiples; but it can then adversely influence the psyche, the eventual willingness and survival capacity of the affected survivors. Thus, numbers do matter - in as much as they affect and harm us more deeply, more fundamentally, and more lastingly. But, as I said, for the individual loved ones, the catastrophe of any singular death remains an individually surmountable challenge. And thus, I may take this commemoration opportunity to focus on the living, on the fortunate survivors, and on their needs and legitimate aspirations.

When some members of our lawmaker group visited the memorial and museum in Halabja, the villagers welcomed us. And the local power holders also spoke of the past horrors. I for one didn't notice any anormal discontent either. Yet, shortly thereafter, in a widely-noted demonstration directed against the regional government's alleged corruption, this hallmark of Kurdish history was sacked and burnt ( ¦ In retrospect, it seems that Halabja's current residents found themselves exploited by the new powers, with their basic needs and legitimate aspirations remaining largely off the regional government's radar screen.

Which brings me to an even more fundamental mechanism at work in that part of the world, too. I'm talking about the respect for the living, and I'm thinking in particular about the respect for our own brethren, for the members of one's own ethnic, cultural or religious group. It is a mechanism which is also at the root of the biblical Yeshua's saying: "A prophet is not respected in his own country." (John 4.44: And it does not only apply to relations between the members of different ethnic, cultural and religious communities, but - importantly - also between members of the very same community. As a matter of fact, in the last 20 years of intense work on Mideastern issues, I have not met many persons from that region who recognised another of their own brethren to have good ideas or to be able and willing to do good things. Showing off, blustering and seeking to impress others preferably by denigrating others seems to be standard procedure and the modus operandi not least in leadership circles. As if the only alternative to being oppressed is seeking to keep out or oppress all others.

In the words of Thomas Friedman, published in his commendable New York Times column "Tribes With Flags" (3/23/11), it is as if "[d]emocratic rotations in power are impossible because each tribe lives by the motto 'rule or die' — either my tribe or sect is in power or we’re dead." And that society-permeating mindset seems to apply to both young and elderly people of any creed, religion or political affiliation, with Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Turkoman and Yezidis not exactly standing out as exceptions either. In fact, as a long-time student of architecture, my sense of harmony has always been stressed by the symptomatic - if unconscious - pompousness, arrogance and even recklessness of many Iraqi villas. In other words, the way and speed forward may ultimately - and to a decisive degree - be determined by the Iraqi citizens' own mindset, i.e. particularly by both their enhanced individual and communal willingness to genuinely recognise, respect and encourage their brethren as also capable to contribute their part to the common good. That, of course, is a long-term proposition where the family, the school and the spiritual leaders are called upon to provide the necessary impulses and guidance.

In 1991, at the beginning of my work on Iraqi minority and human rights issues, I had only my own cultural, educational and experience background to build on. I thought that Switzerland's culture of dialogue, consensus-building and cooperation might also be helpful, desirable and successfully aimed at in and around the birthplace of mankind. I was, of course, aware that this world-renoun - and seemingly unique - political and cultural success-formula has been built over some 700 years by Switzerland's religiously and linguistically diversified  communities. But I trusted that with the necessary goodwill and support from all of Northern Iraq's constituent communities and their friends abroad, it should be possible to set things on the right track within at most one generation. And that circumstances can be helped about in that direction, both from within and from without. Accordingly, I labored from the beginning to properly identify, strengthen and build on the roots of each constituent community, and to get their leaders to work out and formally agree to dialogue, consensus-building and cooperation formulas for equitable power- and fruit-sharing. The result is the Mosul Vilayet project, with its five fundamental declarations, three key programs, land-ownership study and Palestinians-in-exile program ( ¦ .../a31.htm ¦ .../UNGA.htm ¦ .../registrars.htm ¦.../PLATO.htm ¦ .../aldeeb08.htm ¦ .../gridlock.htm).

Today, some 20 years later, the upheavals currently gaining the Arab world, as well as the Mosul Vilayet project, seem to testify to the validity not only of Victor Hugo's saying: "No army in the world is strong enough to withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come." But also of the reverse side of the very same coin, i.e.: "No force is strong enough to push through an idea whose time has not yet come." Indeed, the International Crisis Group quotes a minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government as now favoring "a new Mosul vilayet"(.../iraqsplit.htm#ICG). And a growing number of Iraqi lawmakers, as well as party and community leaders, stand by their earlier commitments. Or they now come forward to add their voice for resolving the Kirkuk and other burning issues on the basis of the legal instruments underlying the Mosul Vilayet project. This is also evidenced by the resolutions which are currently under consideration in the European Parliament and the US Congress(.../140.htm ¦ .../ashureu.htm ¦ .../ashur.htm). On this history-inspired third road, the survivors of Halabja, of Saddam, and of depleated uranium weapons - i.e. Iraq's much abused youth and their parents - may thus finally and proudly build a future worthy of their great past.

*            *            *

Q & A session:What can the UN do to help the Kurds and Kurdistan?
    Charles Graves, Chairman:    The UN is basically a members-only club where a politically effective dialogue is possible only among representatives of member nations. The UN's specialised agencies is the forum for scientific, technical and practical tasks in such common interest fields as health, labor, agriculture, telecommunications, refugees, etc. In all these areas, civil society is given at most an observer and consultative status, with strictly delimitated and supervised non-governmental organisations (NGOs) kept at an often frustrating, for ineffective distance. Strictly guarded communication channels are kept open notably at what is now the UN Human Rights Council. Thus it is not surprising that whistle-blowing and ground-breaking NGO reports and initiatives were only barely - if at all - taken up by the international media. They included reports submitted early on by Amnesty International, Interfaith International, Greenpeace, WWF and others on such horrowing stories like Halabja, Anfal and depleated urranium weapons. But mostly only much later, when it became politically expedient, did these reports make it into the official discourse of government representatives. So what we can do and achieve as NGOs remains mostly in the realm of writing well-documented papers and making appealing and resonance-capable statements reflecting our mandates, homework and insights - and hoping for the powers that be to take up the ball when it suits them.

    Anton Keller:    To be sure, some NGOs also got streetwise and even managed to organise a politically critical mass at the UN Security Council. However, in the case of the Iraqi minorities issues, it is particularly galling to note how the successors of Saddam shot themselves into their own feet in the wake of Saddam's downfall. For when the powers that be finally were ready to reactivate the never-abrogated international minority protection and private property guarantees by way of mentioning the corresponding Iraqi Declaration of 1932(.../UNGA.htm) in the Security Council Resolution 1546 of June 8, 2004, it was the Kurdish Iraqi Foreign Minister who vetoed that godsend as "colonial stuff", thus ignoring Iraq's own history and interest in favor of some influential flat-earth US ignoramuses who never got over their dislike of anything linked to the League of Nations. Which, of course, need not be the end of the story, as other, less US-subservient, more enlightened and visionary leaders may yet take the helm. Meanwhile, there are crucial lessons to be drawn from what the Chairman explained, and from the concrete experiences I just outlined:
1.    The UN is a powerful political vehicle only for governments; unless you have done your homework and lined up the votes there, you might as well "piss at a lamp post" for getting any action done, as Seth Lipsky, the former editor of the Wall Street Journal, once reminded me. That is the reason, why even the over 1 million signatures collected in 2004 among the Mosul Vilayet inhabitants in favor of separation from Iraq didn't make a dent anywhere and in fact couldn't even be officially received by the UN.
2.    The first order of business for any community who wishes to be recognised and taken seriously by the international community is to get its own house in order, to know who they are and where they want to go, to respect each other, and to speak with one voice firmly, reasonably and reliably. Since 1992, the signatories of the Mosul Vilayet project have probably come closer to these objectives than others have come to theirs (.../a31.htm#CORUM).
3.    To identify and develop practical vehicles and pathways for allies abroad to support that proposed objective which best meets the common interest of all communities concerned. Thereby inspiration may be drawn from some simple but crucial psychological and historical facts, namely: That the shortest way is not necessarily the most practical. That many problems cannot be resolved inside the box - as best illustrated with the nine-star puzzle (.../puzzle.htm). That a man who wants a child cannot do it alone but must invest and associate himself with a woman. That by availing their good offices for helping to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli gridlock, the inhabitants of the Mosul Vilayet might also benefit enormously on the educational, administrative and political fronts (.../gridlock.htm). That Christians have the highest resonance factor among the Western allies - for which reason the congressional and the EP resolutions I spoke about are focussed on the Assyrians. And that on the way to an eventual Kurdistan, Kurds and their brethren in the Mosul Vilayet might make most individual and common progress by seeking to develop and strengthen their multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society through genuinely mutual respect based on a deliberate culture of dialogue, consensus-building and power- and fruit-sharing.

    Charles Graves, Chairman:    Anton is quite right, and he has offered us some good advice. For he is a specialist on old and mostly forgotten but often still amazingly relevant treaties. Perhaps then our commemorative reflections of today will indeed go beyond the realm of the dead and be of real assistance to the living. For no lesser authority than Saddrudin Aga Khan, in his noted Sorbonne address of 1992 (.../Sorbonne.html), has already pointed out that:
"The League's international minority protection obligations were recognized as fundamental laws for countries concerned, i.e. inter alia, Turkey, Iraq, Serbia-Croatia-Slovenia.  They could not be altered without the consent of the League Council and were explicitly declared to take precedence over any existing and future national 'law, regulation or official action'."
As such and in the hands of visionary politicians, they could indeed now become powerful instruments for resolving the explosive Kirkuk issue in particular. For this reason we can only hope that Saddrudin's advice be promptly heeded when he said: "The argument is advanced that League obligations could be applied with respect to Iraq ...  It would be helpful if international law experts were to examine the validity of this proposal."

March 20, 2011

Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated

WE all enjoy speculating about which Arab regime will be toppled next, but maybe we should  be looking closer to home. High unemployment? Check. Out-of-touch elites? Check. Frustrated young people? As a 24-year-old American, I can testify that this rich democracy has plenty of those too.

About one-fourth of Egyptian workers under 25 are unemployed, a statistic that is often cited as a reason for the revolution there. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January an official unemployment rate of 21 percent for workers ages 16 to 24.

My generation was taught that all we needed to succeed was an education and hard work. Tell that to my friend from high school who studied Chinese and international relations at a top-tier college. He had the misfortune to graduate in the class of 2009, and could find paid work only as a lifeguard and a personal trainer.  Unpaid internships at research institutes led to nothing.  After more than a year he moved back in with his parents.

Millions of college graduates in rich nations could tell similar stories. In Italy, Portugal and Spain, about one-fourth of college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed. In the United States, the official unemployment rate for this group is 11.2 percent, but for college graduates 25 and over it is only 4.5 percent.

The true unemployment rate for young graduates is most likely even higher because it fails to account for those who went to graduate school in an attempt to ride out the economic storm or fled the country to teach English overseas. It would be higher still if it accounted for all of those young graduates who have given up looking for full-time work, and are working part time for lack of any alternative.

The cost of youth unemployment is not only financial, but also emotional. Having a job is supposed to be the reward for hours of SAT prep, evenings spent on homework instead of with friends and countless all-nighters writing papers. The millions of young people who cannot get jobs or who take work that does not require a college education are in danger of losing their faith in the future. They are indefinitely postponing the life they wanted and prepared for; all that matters is finding rent money. Even if the job market becomes as robust as it was in 2007 — something economists say could take more than a decade — my generation will have lost years of career-building experience.

It was simple to blame Hosni Mubarak for the frustrations of Egypt’s young people — he had been in power longer than they had been alive. Barack Obama is not such an easy target; besides his democratic legitimacy, he is far from the only one responsible for the weakness of the recovery. In the absence of someone specific to blame, the frustration simply builds.

As governments across the developed world balance their budgets, I fear that the young will bear the brunt of the pain: taxes on workers will be raised and spending on education will be cut while mortgage subsidies and entitlements for the elderly are untouchable. At least the Saudis and Kuwaitis are trying to bribe their younger subjects.

The uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa are a warning for the developed world. Even if an Egyptian-style revolution breaking out in a rich democracy is unthinkable, it is easy to recognize the frustration of a generation that lacks opportunity. Indeed, the “desperate generation” in Portugal got tens of thousands of people to participate in nationwide protests on March 12. How much longer until the rest of the rich world follows their lead?

Matthew C. Klein is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Bilgesam    24 March 2011 16:40
(reproduced in KurdishMedia, 5.5.11)

Why Are People In Northern Iraq Protesting?
by Arzu YORKAN

After the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, on February 17, 2011, the Kurds in Northern Iraq poured into the streets to support the people of these countries. The international community had firstly believed that was the case. However, the situation is completely different. The Kurdish people have been demonstrating for their rights only.

They are protesting against their Government, Kurdistan Regional Government, for democracy, employment opportunities, better living conditions, freedom, justice and such like. They have been fighting for a decade now. Their struggle has been strenghtened with the support of the opposition group, the Gorran Movement, which was born two years ago, June 2009, when the Parliamentary elections were held. From those elections, the Gorran gained 25 seats out of 111 in the Parliament, who changed the dynamics of politics in the regional government. The party started to challenge Government politics with nepotism, corruption, oil revenue, etc. especially, after having experienced some disagreements and problems with Barzani. Meanwhile, the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt have created a suitable atmosphere for the Gorran and the people themselves to protest against the Government for political, social and economic reforms.

To that date the Government had not taken their concerns seriously. Now, it is the time to create a stronger pressure over the Government for democratization, employment opportunities, better social services, and justice, emphasized by the protesters. They seem very stable to continue their demonstrations until getting their rights. Although the Government has promised to hold an early parliamentary elections requested by the oppostion groups, and declared to make reforms, the people gathered in the streets do not believe, they see those promises as nothing but political discourse. If the Kurdistan Regional Government does not keep its promises, the situation could possibly be worse than that of the current. On the contrary, if the Government takes those concerns of the people and opposition groups into consideration and implement the reforms, written in the resolution enacted by the 23th of February, 2011, the situation will be better. As expressed by the Kurdish people, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq will experience a ‘new era’: a more democratic political system, human rights, better living conditions, freedom, free press, and justice. In this study, the author explains first the political structure of the Kurdistan Regional Government and administration of ruling parties in a critical way; secondly, the reasons that stand behind the protests; thirdly, demands of the people and opposition groups separately; and fourthly, plans of the Government after the uprisings. In the last section, she analyzes the situation and the future of those developments under the light of optimistic and pessimistic scenarios.

Political Structure of the Region
Kurdistan Region, the so called “Northern Iraq”, is an autonomous region in federal Iraq. The Constitution of Iraqi government recognizes the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdistan National Assembly and the Peshmerga guard as the legitimate authorities of the Kurdistan. Erbil, Suleimaniah and Duhok are three provinces, and Erbil, locally known as Hawler, is the capital city of the region. Massoud Barzani is the president of the Kurdistan Region, while Barham Ahmed Salih is the prime minister. The Kurdistan Region Parliament, after the current elections of July 2009, has the following parties. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headed by Massoud Barzani, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headed by Jalal Talabani, who is the current President of Iraq, the Gorran (Change) Movement headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa,  the Kurdistan Islamic Union, the Kurdistan Islamic Group and other smaller parties represented mostly by ethnic groups. The KDP and PUK are ruling parties and the last three are opposition groups in the parliament. The Kurdish Assembly has 111 seats; 59 are shared by the KDP and PUK; 25 belong to the main opposition group, the Gorran Movement, and the rest are owned by the Kurdistan Islamic Union, Kurdistan Islamic Group and others. The number of female members in this assembly is relatively high, 36 seats out of 111. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is ruled by the parties of Barzani and Talabani, the KDP and PUK.

Despite having a structured government, the Kurdistan Region has been practically divided into two separate zones of influence. The local administrations in the provinces of Erbil and Dohuk are controlled by the KDP, while Sulaimaniah is mostly administered by the PUK. The Barzani administration is called Hewlêr while Talabani’s is called Slêmanî. However, after the July 2009 parliamentary elections, the influence of Talabani for many decades in the province of Suleimaniah has been started to decrease due to the fact that Gorran Movement gained most of its votes in those elections. This divided administration and the constant distrust between the PUK and KDP leaders have together weakened Kurdish political power in the region and Iraq as well. And it has created a power structure that has been furnished with nepotism and corruption.
From time to time some negotiations and talks between Barzani and Talabani took place with the purpose of unifying their seperated administrations. In 2005, they e such style of administration in the government, but as of today the entire regional government entities such as security forces and finance departments of both ruling parties –  the KDP and PUK are still not totaly unified. But they could easily become unified for their ‘common’ interests such as in the case of “National Pact”. The leaders of KDP and PUK signed this Pact to protect interests of their people in Kurdistan Region. Ironically, no one except their inner circles was informed about its content. If the agreement was for the interests of the people of region, why  have they been till now uninformed about such strategic Pact?

Why the Protests in Suleimaniah?
Suleimaniah is the second largest province located in the south of the Kurdistan Region. It is the city of most educated people, that is called the ‘capital of cultur’ in the region. So, the demonstrators are journalists, intellectuals, students, academics, members of parliament, musicians, poets, workers, and religious men (Mullas). What kind of problems do these people have, and why have they been protesting since February 17, 2011.

All the Kurdistan Region including the Suleimaniah province for twenty years has been ruled by the two major parties that are controlled by Barzani and Talabani families, who have political and economic power in the region since they came to power. Those two families live in luxury, control the allmost all business/markets of the region, the national budget including the hydrocarbon revenues (oil and gas), security forces the so called ‘Peshmerga’ and all the security apparatuses known as ‘Asayish’, intelligence services, and so on.  Those security forces and apparatuses owned by the two parties control every aspect of people’s life. And nepotism and corruption are other serious problems for Kurdish people, which have created a paralyzed political system, hence a dysfunctional government, the KRG.

Moreover, the free press is under threat of the parties of Barzani and Talabani, the KDP and PUK. Most of media outlets, TV and Radio stations are owned and controlled by those two parties. There exist e few independent press sources,  however, they are threatened by the KRG, Barzani-Talabani coalition government. Especially, in the wake of the uprising, many journalists were attacked and injured, and some TV-Radio stations were damaged, such as Nalia Radio and Television (NRT), which is only independent Kurdish satellite. So, it should be easy to understand the reason why the people in Suleimaniah have been protesting against the regional government, the KRG.

In addition to such undemocratic system, the people poured on the streets have other serious problems in their daily life like poverty, lack of social services, high inflation, unemployment, inequality of income distribution and such like. Most of graduates have no job, and no guarantee for upcoming bachelors. The region has not any industiral development, except a small movement in the construction sector, in which foreign investment plays a significant role. The factories in this sector produce only some construction materials like iron and cement. The people of Kurdistan region claim that the national oil revenue is not equally distributed to them. The country natural resources are shared by the two families, namely Barzani and Talabani, says an Iraqi journalist, Ahmet Mira.  Therefore, the poverty in the society has been seriously increasing. Many families, who lived in cities before, are immigrating to the rural areas. The middle-class was totally disappeared, states Rebwar Kerim Veli, the Kurdish journalist, now, there is only high-class – families of Barzani and Talabani – and low-class.

The living conditions and basic services in the region are very poor. In case of electricity and water, it is reported that people who live in Suleimaniah, explain the situation as follows. Electricity is one of the biggest problems of the region. There are two lines inside one house, one is from the public and the other is private. The public line is provided by the municipality, while the second line is supplied by private generators, which have 8 or 10-house or one-street capacity. The public power is often cut, while the private has no sufficient volume to meet needs of the people. In the region, summers the temperature is 50-55 degree, while the winters are relatively cold. Because of this hot climate, it is impossible to live without air-conditioners, not every house but every room must have it seperately. However, due to insufficent and poor service, summers the people suffer from such of 50-55-degree hot weather and winters from the cold.

But the situation is only for the poor people, not for the wealty. Because the rich people have their own generator, which is used for their hous only. The situation in water case is worse than that of electricity. The people in Suleimaniah say they have water only four-hour every two days. Therefore, they use small water storages, putting on their roofs, which are not enough for their needs. Allmost all of the Kurdistan region has the same problems of electricity and water shortage, not only the province of Suleimaniah. One should ask, why the people living in Erbil and Duhok do not demonstrate, inasmuch as they have such problems of poor service. Becuase Erbil and Duhok are under control of Barzani families, and there is a serious pressure from the politicians of the KDP over them. It seems very difficult to go out on the streets to protest against Barzani. To sum up, the people in Suleimainah are protesting against undemocratic political system, widespread corruption, nepotism, unemployment, injustice, control of the economy by the ruling parties and their inner circles, lack of better services, and freedom of press.

What Demand the People of the Region?
The people, the demonstrators poured on the streets for one month, do demand political, social and economic reforms. They demand transparency in politics, jobs, better services, better living conditions, social justice, transparency in oil revenue, freedom of assembly, and free press. “Our country which is dominated by the youth needs a dynamic economy so that it can satisfy our needs.” expresses Mufid Abdulla, a journalist from Kurdishmedia. The Kurdish people have been expressing their demands for more than eight years, not only  now. However, the ruling parties did not give any attention to their requests, and they always ignored those demands of the region’s people. A member of the Gorran Movement, Mr. Shaho Saeed, stresses that “we have said over and over that the government should address the needs of the public before those of the political parties.” And he adds, “despite our warnings and several submitted proposals which adress our concerns regarding political system, the government has done nothing until now.”

What Demands the Opposition – Gorran Movement?
Before explaining what the Gorran Movement demands, I would like to briefly mention how this opposition group emerged in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. The distrust between the ruling parties, the KDP and the PUK, in general, which creates disunity in the KRG over many national issues, and disagreements in the PUK leadership in particular created a conducive environment for the Gorran Movement to be born. Then, the Gorran Party appeared on the political scene of the Kurdistan region with the last election of June 2009, and secured 25 seats in the Parliament, which changed the dynamics of the political system. This is due to the fact that the KRG had not until this date experienced any opposition group. The emergence of the Gorran has become a great challenge to the KDP-PUK government.

The Gorran Movement emphasizes on the following points as its demands: democratization, transparency in the budget, administrative reforms, disarmament of political parties, development of civil society, and reducing influence of the ruling parties over the politics. With regard to the problems between the regional government and central (Iraqi) government, the Gorran proposes that they should be solved according to the Consitution in a peaceful and democratic way, and the regional government should recieve an equal share of the central government from road, rail and oil sectors of Iraq.

The Gorran Party calls for new parliamentary elections. However, they do not want the elections to be held under the government of the KDP-PUK coalition. To have a free and fair election, the KRG should be dissolved, says, Zana Rauf, a member of the Gorran Party from Kurdish parliament. And she states that ‘we need an interim government which should be run by technocrats and independents to prepare the ground for genuine elections’. According to the Gorran party, the current regional government should resign, and be replaced with a three-month interim government that can pave the way for a free and fair election far from fraud of the ruling parties. They suggest that within this three-month period, the provisional government should reorganize the armed forces of Kurdistan Region –  Peshmerga, Asayish, Police and intelligence services of the KDP and PUK – as unified national forces. We believe that “the reorganisation, renationalisation and professionalization of those forces would be achieved through two formulas”, says Mr. Shaho Saeed, another member of the Gorran Movement. “The first formula is to change the function of these forces from the function of defending the interest of the political parties to the defence of the security of the homeland and the people of the region”. And “the second formula is to replace the directors and executive layer of these forces with independent, professional and qualified individual and not appointees of political parties”. And he explains if the interim government is able to succeed that then it will be able to oversee the running of a ‘bona-fide election’.

The Gorran highlights that it has frequently raised those concerns to the ruling parties, the KDP and PUK, through their representatives in the regional and central Parliaments, and warned them about the potential dangers of the situation. But time and again no difference from the government has beenexpressed by the Gorran group.  As a result, now it is the time for us, the Gorran, to submit our demands publically to the KDP-PUK coalition and all the parties in the Parliament, which is a genuine solution to “end the system of partisanship autocracy and establish new principals of government”. The Gorran Movement issued a statement on January 29, 2011 to publicly re-repeat its demands. The ‘Statement’ covers the following points:

1. To prohibit the leadership of KDP and PUK from any kind of interference in the affairs of the Government, statutory bodies, the Parliament, judiciary, security services and Peshmerga (armed forces).
2. To prohibit the Security Services, Zanyary (PUK intelligence Services), Parastin (KDP intelligence Services) and Peshmerga from any kind of interference in the political activities of individuals and groups. We demand that the directors of these apparatuses be replaced by independent professional individuals.
3. The dissolution of the current PUK-KDP partisan government and the formation of a transitional apolitical technocratic administration.
4. The dissolution of the current Parliament.
5. The preparations for an authentic election free from rigging for a new Kurdistan Parliament within 3 months.
6. The return to their rightful owners of all properties of the government and individuals that were sequestered by the political parties and their officials.
7. To withdraw the draft constitution of the region and all of the legislations that are pertinent to the system of government of the country and pass it on to the oncoming Parliament.
Before this memo, last year in August, 2010, the Gorran Group had issued another Notice for political and economic reforms, which covers 13 articles about such as transparency in oil income of the Kurdistan Region, regulations about the political parties’ budget, etc. The Gorran, with those Memos and its oral notices, calls for the people not to remain in silent against the KRG, and warns them to demonstrate for corruption, nepotism, anti-democratic government as well as lack of the basic services. For example, before the first day of the demonstrations, February 17, 2011, the Gorran party had invited the people of Suleimaniah to the streets to protest against the electricity shortage, which was one of the most serious problems in the region, and other municipal services.

Unfortunately, the KRG, as it did before, did not take those concerns and demands of the Gorran seriously, which was raised on January 29, 2011, when the demonstrations in Tunusia and Egypt had already launched. The spokesman of the Gorran, Mohammed Tevfik Rahim, had warned the government as ‘if the KRG does not make any reforms, we will all demonstrate like those in these countries. Likewise, the leader of the Gorran party, Nawshirwan Mustafa, had given the examples of Tunusia and Egypt to the people for having gathered them to protest against the KDP-PUK coalition. As a result, the incident has occured on 17th February, 2011, in Suleimaniah, Southern Kurdistan Region.

During that uprising, the Peshmerga opened fire on the demonstrators and five were dead and fifty wounded. By doing so, the KDP, Barzani’s party,  has aimed to frighten the protesters with the purpose of preventing them for any upcoming revolts. However, this has provoked the demonstrators, including supporters of the Gorran, and caused more deads and wounders and many physical damages in the following days. The protests in Kurdistan Region, Suleimaniah, still continue, but with less damage luckily, and in more peaceful way. However, the people of the region stress that they would continue to struggle with the government of Barzani and Talabani, the KDP and PUK, until their needs and demands are fulfilled.

Accordingly, the three opposition groups in the regional parliament – the Gorran Movement, Kurdistan Islamic Union and Kurdistan Islamic Group –  issued a new Statement, in March, 2011, to again warn the KRG administration to give attention to their demands for political and economic reforms. They also have been adressing other concerns which are waiting to be solved by the KDP-PUK government. The intelligence services of both ruling parties should be integrated. All the political parties in the parliament should be represented by the governmental organizations and offices. The budget shared to all the political parties based on their seats in the Parliament should be fairly distributed. Finally, an independent body should be founded to investigate widespread corruption in the region, the cases of all missing political prisoners and the crimes and abuse of power by politicians. To summarize, the people of Northern Iraq are fighting mainly for economic and social reasons like unemployment, poor living conditions, freedom, justice, etc., while the opposition political groups, particularly the Gorran, which is the owner of 25 seats in the Parliament, are struggling for above-mentioned political reforms.

Political Reasons Behind the Demonstrations/Uprisings
The date of 17th of February, 2011, was not the beginning of the protests in Kurdistan Region. The demonstrations in the region had already started before that date. There are some political reasons that acount for the former protests such as trade union elections and legislation of ‘Meeting and Demonstration Law’. According to the new legislation, groups who wish to hold meetings or demonstrations have to take permission from the local authorities. However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil organizations refused to accept this Law, while waiting the approval of the president, Barzani. And they accepted giving information whenever they wish to organize any activity but not getting permission from local governors. The Gorran Movement, who did not become as successful as it expected in the union elections, invited its supporters and NGOs to protest the Demonstration Law for not being ratified. Accordingly, some campaigns were organized in the early days of January, five hundred thousand signatures were collected and some protests were happened. However, despite all those activities of the opposition group, Barzani signed the Act, which then hardened the relationship between Barzani and the Gorran.

On the other hand, the last elections of July 2009, which was won by the KDP and PUK, was far from fair, and was plagued by fraud, claimed by the opposition groups. And also the request of the Gorran Party, which was getting a ministry in Baghdat, was rejected due to the KDP leader. The Gorran claims that Barzani had asked Maliki to not grant any ministry to them in the new Iraqi Government. All those caused the oppostion group to fight against the ruling parties, particularly the KDP. And the Gorran started to hardly criticize the government policy for not being transparent in politics, the national oil revenue, corruption, etc., especially through its television channel, KNN. Meanwhile, the successful civil revolts had been launched in Tunisia and Egypt. And those rebellions have created a great opportunity for the Gorran to make more pressure over the KRG for Parliamentary elections, and to take attention of international community to Kurdistan Region.

Furthermore, the Gorran Movement criticizes the coalition government of the KDP-PUK for having failed to take any serious measure to democratise the political system, succeed social justice and improve living conditions of its citizens. The emergence of the Gorran party in the Parliament had created a new hope for our people, expressed by members of the party. They had expected that the KRG would handle their problems, revise its attitude and take this as an opportunity to democratise the government, decrease unemployment and provide better social services. Instead, the ruling parties continued their constant political attitude and did not take those expectations of the people into account. All those have created an interaction between the people of the region and the opposition groups in the Parliament to protest together against the KRG.

However, the ruling parties, particularly the KDP, accused the opposition groups and neighbouring countries like Iran as organizers of those demonstrations. The protests have not been controlled by the opposition parties but the opposition, the Gorran, has tried to use the momentum on the streets in order to create changes in the political system, says Assos Hardi, the founder of two independent Kurdish newspapers.  Becuase both the people and Gorran have been fighting for similar goals: political, social and economic reforms.

What the Government Has Done After the 17th of February
After the first incident on February 17, 2011, the KDP tried to stop that uprising, accordingly, Barzani did some speeches to calm down the people, having said demonstration is your legitimate right but violence and attack are not acceptable. He called for immediate elections for the Parliament and provincial councils of Erbil, Dohuk and Suleimaniah, and called on the Parliament and Government to begin preparations for the elections as soon as possible. The PUK leader, Talabani, has declared that he agrees with the call from Barzani. During their meeting in the city of Salahuddin, the both leaders said they would continue to work together to solve the problems arising in the region. Talabani has emphasized that ‘we, in the past, struggled together for the liberation of our Kurdish people, and want to struggle today too’.

Moreover, on February 23, 2011, the KRG held an extraordinary session to discuss the urgent situation of the region and demands of the people. Then the Government enacted a resolution – No.1, 2011, which has seventeen articles. With this Resolution, the KRG adopted the following points: withdrawal of the Peshmerga to their previous locations, which were sent to Suleimaniah and the other cities during the protests, finding those who burnt the Nalia channel and Gorran’s radio and television buildings, immediately improving living conditions of the people, social justice, political freedoms and rights, and establishment of a special committee in order to listen to demands of the demonstrators. The KRG declared that the Council of Minitries and the relevant authorities shall implement the articles of the resolution, which is waiting the approval of the Parliament. (See all articles of the Resolution attached the article). However, the people in the region do not believe those promises of Barzani and its coalition goverment, reported by Cetin Cetiner, a turkish correspondent of the Norhtern Iraq, becuase they say it is only a political discourse.

What Bring the Protests to the Region?
Kurdistan Region is after February 17, 2011, is different from before, says Asos Hardi, the founder of two independent Kurdish newspapers. He states that “we are definitely in a new era now”. Before this date calls from the people, the opposition groups and media for reforms were not taken seriously. It seemed very difficult for the opposition parties and public, for example, to demand a re-election at that time under the government of the KDP-PUK. So, after February 17, the ruling parties can not remain silent against those demands any more.

If the ruling parties, particularly, the KDP, keeps its promises, which were given within a few days after the first demonstrations as political and economic reforms, and could implement them on time, the Kurds could likely witness the new era in the region very soon. If not, uprisings would grow and spread to other cities of the region, and bring more blood to the region, and the KRG rulers be sent like those of Egypt and Tunisia. Becuase the demonstrations in Suleimaniah still continue, and it seems difficult to estimate when they will end. The protesters express their feelings as ‘we are here, in the Liberation Square, until we get our rights, we shall not leave this Square’. Everyday, the support to the demonstrators is increasingly growing from trade unions, non-governmental organizations and the ordinary people. It is a social and economic revolution, says Mufid Abdulla, a journalist from KurdishMedia. The ruling elites should realize that those uprisings reflect a profound process of this revulotion. It is hence impossible to prevent such process with their armed forces such as the Peshmerga. They should take demands of the people into consideration, and work in a cooperative way with other political parties to solve the problems of the region.

The situation in Northern Iraq is different from those of Egypt and Tunisia. When the people of those countries poured into the streets and the governments lost control of those situations, the future of their nations was not threatened by any of the neighbouring countries, by interfering in their internal affairs or using the unrests for their interests for example. However, the situation in the Kurdistan Region is very sensitive and could easily get out of the control. If the regional government fails to take control of that situation, it may trigger a civil war and may never be controlled again. The protests in Southern Kurdistan Region reflect the nature of ‘civil disobedience’, which means to refuse to obey certain laws of government. The people in Suleimaniah are potesting without obeying any demonstration law and the government’s commands. The KRG should see the examples of Tunisia and Egypt or those of others throughout the history. And ruling elites should realize that if they do not fulfill those demands of the people, then they would end their political life like leaders of Egypt and Tunisia – Mubarek and Bin Ali who went with blood.

In conclusion, the people of Nothern Iraq are protesting the Kurdistan Regional Government for social and economic reforms. They have been fighting for their rights for one decade  now. The emergence of the opposition groups in the Kurdish Parliament, mainly the Gorran Movement, has brought a new challenge to the KRG. The Gorran has started to struggle with the Government for political reforms. The social and economic demands from the people and political demands from the Gorran have created an interaction between them to fight together against the KRG. Meanwhile, a revolutionary mood has spread accross the Middle East and North Africa. And it has created a conducive environment for the people to be encouraged, and for the Gorran to gather people on the streets. Then the incident, February 17, 2011, erupted as the first event. Still the demonstrations in Suleimaniah continue with a larger groups. And no one knows when those protests will end. Becuase the people of the region do not trust the Government’s proposals that were issued after the first incident. If the Barzani and Talabani keep their promises and reform the political and economic system of Kurdistan Region, then the people leave protesting. Otherwise, the uprisings would grow and spread accross the other cities of the region, which could create a civil war. The Kurdistan Region is unfortunately not lucky as much as Tunisia and Egypt were because its situation is very sensitive and any possible interference could come from neighbouring countries such as Iran which could cause to make the situation more complicated and worse. As a final word, if the current government, the KRG, implements the reforms requested by the people and opposition, it would be possible to have a ‘new era’ in the region, which will bring more democratic political system, social justice, freedom, job, better basic services and such like.  It does not seem to be so difficult to fulfill such demands and change their behaviour of distrust if the ruling elites leave dishonesty, corruption, nepotism, and work together for interests of the people not of their parties and inner circles.

1)   The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Resolution No.1, 2011,
2)   Interview with Boran Yorkan, Leyla Yorkan and Kadir Yorkan, March 9,2011.
3)   Kirmanj Gundi, “Party politics of Kurdish leadership engenders mayhem in Slêmanî”, KurdishMedia, February 26, 2011
4)   Dilshad Amin, “The legitimate civil disobedience in southern Kurdistan should be answered” , KurdishMedia,  March 5, 2011.
5)   Newswatch Desk, “Raid prevents Kurdistan first independent TV station from covering unrest”, February 22, 2011.
6)  TRT Turk “Detay Bakis”, March 10, 2010.
7)   Mufid Abdulla, “Why the mood of the south of Kurdistan’s youth is in a state of revolution”, Kurdish Media, February 21, 2011.
8)   Kurdishmedia, “Dr. Shaho Saeed: The ruling parties of the region have frankly declared that they have no proposals for reforms in Kurdistan”, February 22, 2011.
9)   Bilgay Duman, “Irak Kürt Bölgesinde ‘Yasemin Kokulari’, ORSAM, February, 16, 2011.
10)  Mohammed A. Salih, “Iraqi Kurdistan's Liberation Square”, Aljazeera, March 8, 2011.
11)  KurdishMedia, “Statement by Gorran Movement about the Current Situation in Kurdistan – Iraq”, January 31, 2011.
12)  Bilgay Duman, “Irak Kürt Bölgesinde ‘Yasemin Kokulari’, ORSAM, February, 16, 2011.
13)  Selen Tonkus Kareem, “Kürt Bölgesel Yönetiminin ‘Tahrir’inden Izlenimler I”, ORSAM, February 23, 2011.
14)  KurdishMedia, “Shocking reaction to the uprising in Sulaymaniah: How genuine popular revolutions begin”, February 18, 2011

March 28, 2011

Clashes Fuel Debate Over U.S. Plan to Leave Iraq

In Kirkuk, shown in December, fighting among Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens is under way. A recent flare-up led to the deployment of American troops there. Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

KIRKUK, Iraq — Many in this divided city want American troops to stay longer than the Obama administration has said they will, and a tense standoff on the southern and western edges of town last week showed why. Here, on a bridge, behind the mud brick walls of an abandoned mill and inside a hospice, Kurdish troops from the north were in positions on the outskirts of Arab neighborhoods.

To calm the latest flare-up of the longstanding ethnic rivalries here has required a rush of high-level diplomacy, including phone calls from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to Kurdish leaders and, a rarity in Iraq today, the deployment of American troops.

The confrontation did not turn violent — precisely, many believe, because of the presence of American troops. But they will leave by the end of the year, if the current schedule stands, and many here fear that could lead to ethnic strife, even civil war.

Kirkuk's Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens are fighting over land and oil.

The Kurdish soldiers, known as the pesh merga, were deployed last month by leaders in the semiautonomous northern region worried about Sunni Arab insurgents attacking peaceful demonstrators in the streets. But the action was viewed by local Arabs, American diplomats and military officials and the Iraqi government as provocative and illegal.

Kurdish officials said Monday that the troops had withdrawn as part of a deal with the Americans and the central government, although a witness in Kirkuk reported seeing the troops in their same positions, and an Arab lawmaker in the local council said that only some soldiers had left.

Sheik Burhan Mizher, an Arab member of the provincial government who like many interviewed here worries about the prospect of civil war after the Americans leave, said some pesh merga forces were still positioned around Kirkuk on Monday. He said of the American troops, “Of course, we want them to stay.”

In the debates under way in Washington and Baghdad about where the American and Iraqi relationship heads after eight years of war, those who argue for a continued American military presence beyond this year — and there are many among the diplomatic and military ranks of both countries — cite Kirkuk as the centerpiece of their case.

Perhaps the greatest unfinished chapter of America’s war in Iraq will be the status of Kirkuk, an ancient city that today is fought over by its three main ethnic groups, Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, each making historical claims to the land and the oil that flows beneath.

“From my point of view, President Obama wants to win a second term and show that he keeps his promises to the American people,” said Hassan Toran, a Turkmen member of the council. “This will affect Kirkuk.”

If the Americans leave, Mr. Toran said, “Anything can happen.” In Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is hemmed in by a bloc of politicians loyal to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who is opposed to any delay in the American withdrawal and whose support Mr. Maliki relied on to secure a second term as premier. Any extension of the American troop presence would require the politically risky decision by Mr. Maliki to ask for it.

Not only do American diplomats and military leaders argue for troops to stay, but outside experts do as well. A recent book written by six Iraq experts, led by Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution, called peacekeeping in Kirkuk “by far the most important U.S. military mission now” and suggested that troops stay to “be a crucial substitute for the trust that undergirds stable societies.” A report published Monday by the International Crisis Group called the pesh merga deployment a “deeply troubling development.”

At their most pessimistic, those involved in trying to solve the Kirkuk problem compare it to Bosnia or Rwanda — two socially mixed but politically divided lands that erupted in tragic and historic violence. When more optimistic, they cite the difficult but peaceful coexistence today of the French and Flemish in Brussels.

At the Kirkuk Provincial Council building, where recently a column of American armored vehicles were parked outside, the ethnic groups try to settle their differences through politics. But if democracy has emerged slowly in Iraq, it has come even more slowly here. When the rest of the country held provincial elections in 2009, Kirkuk did not. A constitutional provision that mandated a referendum on Kirkuk’s status in 2007 has not been held.

“There is no dialogue at all,” Mr. Toran said. “We all just give speeches through the media and accuse each other.” On Monday, a rock-throwing brawl broke out between Kurds and Turkmens at a technical university in Kirkuk.

Recently, the provincial governor, a Kurd, resigned. He is to be replaced by another Kurd, an American-Iraqi who once lived in Silver Spring, Md. The provincial council head, a Kurd, also recently resigned, and is expected to be replaced by Mr. Toran.

But a council session last week illustrated the layers of ethnic and religious divide here in Kirkuk. As the council considered Mr. Toran’s appointment, a Shiite Turkmen rival to Mr. Toran, who is Sunni, spoke against it, and the Kurds walked out to protest the theatrical display of identity politics. From a back row of the gallery, an American diplomat and two soldiers watched the proceedings.

On Kirkuk’s streets, insurgent attacks are still frequent. Recently, an Opel packed with explosives detonated outside a hospital, leaving two dead: a young mother and a baby girl, just 5 hours old. The father lost his right arm.

“Here I am without a wife and daughter and arm,” Samir Mahmoud, 27, said in an interview. “What can I do and where can I go? It’s our calamity.”

Across Iraq, the American invasion upended traditional notions of victimhood — the long oppressed Shiites became ascendant, while the Sunni ruling elite under Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party found itself on the margins of power. In Kirkuk, the Kurds, who had been brutalized by the former government’s policies and weapons, have the strongest grip on power. The Arabs, many of whom were moved to the area by Mr. Hussein in his campaign to alter the demographics of the area and dilute Kurdish influence, are fighting for their own stake in the new Iraq.

“Shame on the other side,” said Mr. Mizher, the Arab lawmaker. “They say we are Saddam. We are not slaves for anyone, for Saddam or for Baathists. We are Iraqis.”

Ahmed al-Askari, a Kurd and head of the provincial council’s security committee, speaks of reconciliation, but his choice of words betrays another agenda, as does a map on his wall that traces the Kurds’ broader land claims, a line stretching in to Turkey, Syria and Iran. “Leave it to the original Kirkuki people and we will reach an agreement,” he said.

Many in Iraq make a point of comparing America’s historical shortcomings in race relations to their tortured present of ethnic and sectarian divide.

“Now, the president of America is black,” Mr. Askari said. “We are working to learn democracy. Step by step, we will understand.”

Duraid Adnan and an employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Kirkuk.

April 13, 2011

Iraqi Youths’ Political Rise Is Stunted by Elites

BAGHDAD — Inspired by the democratic uprisings around the Arab world to push for change, young lawmakers in Parliament are running up against an ossified political elite still dominated by the exiles who followed American tanks into Iraq to establish a fragile, violence-scarred democracy.

Ali al-Jaff, 23, protested in Baghdad. Iraq's demographics skew even younger than in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times

On the streets, the voices of young demonstrators and journalists have been muted by the batons and bullets of elite security units that answer only to a prime minister who officials say personally sends orders by text message.

An Iraq spring it is not.
In a country where the demographics skew even younger than in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, the wave of political change in the region has laid bare a generation gap here split by old resentments nurtured by dictatorship and war and a youthful grasping for a stake in the new Iraq. “The younger generation is ready to go forward; they are carrying less resentments,” said Rawaz M. Khoshnaw, 32, a Kurdish member of Parliament, in a recent interview.

But the forces of youth are blunted by the same forces that have robbed Iraqi society of so much for so long — violence, a stagnant economy, zero-sum politics and sectarianism — and that have prevented a new political class from emerging to take Iraq into a new democratic future.

A common sentiment from nearly three dozen interviews with young Iraqis around the country recently is a persistent disenchantment with both their political leaders and the way democracy has played out here. “The youth is the excluded class in the Iraqi community,” said Swash Ahmed, a 19-year-old law student in Kirkuk. “So they’ve started to unify through Facebook or the Internet or through demonstrations and evenings in cafes, symposiums and in universities. But they don’t have power.”

Iraq’s unity government is showing increased signs of splintering over an American-backed power-sharing agreement. If the government fractures and a narrow majority of Shiite parties led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a former exile, takes control, the result would be more divisiveness and potentially more violence.

For the young, it would be another sign of the difficulty in gaining a voice in Iraq’s democracy, and a counternarrative to the grand new history being written elsewhere in the Middle East.

In Basra, Salah Mahmod, 18, said politicians here were “in love with power.” “We don’t have democracy, and the politicians have no idea what it means.”

But it is a measure of progress that these students can speak out freely and join in street protests. One small result is that bars reopened in Baghdad after being closed in January. “I do not want to be so negative about it,” said Shereen Ahmed, 19, who is studying to be a teacher in Anbar Province. “Yes, we are witnessing a small part of democracy now from what we see from the protests in Iraq. When Saddam was here, not even one Iraqi could go out in protest because he would be killed.”

Talal al-Zubai, 41, a lawmaker from the Iraqiya bloc — the coalition led by Ayad Allawi, who was handpicked by the Americans to be prime minister in 2005 and was once attacked in exile by ax-wielding assassins sent by Saddam Hussein — decided to form a youth bloc of Parliament members after witnessing the protests in the region and here. He said that six had joined, and that 20 others had privately told him of their interest but were fearful of going public because “right now they are afraid of their leaders.”

Mr. Zubai, a Sunni politician who recounts with pride the number of assassination attempts he has survived — three: by car bomb, roadside bomb and pistol — has no such fear, and he spoke openly about his disdain for the political elite during an interview in the foyer of Iraqiya’s office in Parliament. “The problem is, those leaders have more power than we do,” said Mr. Zubai, who is working on his graduate studies at a college in Baghdad. “They have more money to use in elections. They have more power to use the army and police to consolidate power.”

Hussein al-Najar is a member of a group of young Iraqis that used Facebook to organize protests. Nearly 40 percent of Iraq's population is 14 or under. Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times

In Iraq, the demographic trends that have underpinned the wave of democratic uprisings and altered the dynamics of power across the Middle East are more pronounced than in other countries. The median age in the country is 21, according to the C.I.A. World Factbook. In Egypt it is 24, and in Tunisia it is 30. Nearly 40 percent of the population here is 14 or under, compared with 33 percent in Egypt and Libya and 23 percent in Tunisia. The comparisons are similar for Bahrain and Syria.

Recently, a group of young Iraqis who used Facebook to organize protests in February to demand improved services gathered in Baghdad near a church where more than 60 Christians were killed late last year. The organizers spoke of being detained and beaten by security forces after the protests, of being called homosexuals and Baathists.

Ali Abdul Zahra, a journalist, told of seeing his friend beaten as the officer asked, “Are you the Facebook guy?” The officer continued, according to Mr. Zahra: “You want freedom, huh? I’ll show you freedom.”

Here, violence and politics are still intertwined — eight years after the American invasion, six years after ratifying a Constitution, and after several national and local elections, all ratified by international groups as free and fair. A brutal attack recently on the seat of local government in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, left nearly 60 people dead, including three members of the provincial council.

That stubborn insurgency creates a space for leaders like Mr. Maliki to centralize power, especially over the security forces, critics say. For example, Mr. Allawi said in an interview that as part of the power-sharing agreement to form the government last year, it was “agreed that the units which are attached to the prime minister should be disengaged.” That has not happened. “There is no power sharing,” he said. “There is no democracy.”

Mr. Khoshnaw, the Kurdish lawmaker, explained the gap between the generations of leaders this way: The older generation that suffered under Mr. Hussein and struggled against him in exile is “defined by the resentments inside themselves.” “They have a hard time letting go,” he said. “People are fed up by the faces they have seen on television for the last eight years.”

Iraqi employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Kirkuk, Basra and Anbar Provinces in Iraq.

Reporters Without Borders    19 April 2011

Physical attacks, arrests make it impossible for journalists
to work in Iraqi Kurdistan

Reporters Without Borders condemns the many cases of journalists being physically attacked or arrested while covering demonstrations in Kalar, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil in the past few days. In some instances, live rounds have been used to fire indiscriminately on protesters and journalists. This is unacceptable.

The press freedom organization is also concerned that the security forces are systematically hunting down journalists and, in some cases, bringing them to trial and convicting them. We urge the region’s authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists and their right to work freely.

Many journalists covering yesterday’s demonstration in Erbil were attacked by the security forces and some were arrested. Jiyar Omer of the newspaper Hawlati and Shiwan Sidi of Civil Magazine were beaten by plain-clothes policemen and Sidi’s hand was broken. Both had to be hospitalized. Awara Hamid of the newspaper Rozhnama and the news website Sbeiy, Bahman Omer of Civil Magazine, Kurdistan News Network bureau chief Hajar Anwar, KNN reporter Mariwan Mala Hassan and two cameramen were attacked by police and then taken to a police station where they were held handcuffed for two hours.

Hiwa Omer of Azadi also reported being attacked by members of the security forces in Erbil. Associated Press correspondent Yahiya Barzanji and Awene reporter Sirwan Kharib suffered tear-gas inhalation. Samal Post editor Rasul Hussein told Reporters Without Borders he was kidnapped during the protest by unidentified men who took him to Qushtapa, a village 10 km southeast of Erbil, and released him there.

Hawlati reporter Shnur Muhammad was hit in the hand by a shot fired by members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan security forces on 17 April in Sulaymaniyah. He was taken to a hospital where doctors operated on his injury. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is one of the two main parties that control Kurdistan. The other is the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

A Sulaymaniyah civil court convicted philosopher and journalist Farouq Rafiq of defamation on 17 April, sentencing him to a fine of 200 Iraqi dinars or a month in prison. His wife, the sociologist and journalist Nask Qadr, is also being prosecuted on a defamation charge.

Media freedom activists are also being systematically hounded. Lvin Magazine owner and editor Ahmed Mira, who often speaks out in defence of media freedom, was attacked by members of the Asayesh (intelligence services) and PUK security forces while taking part in an event in Kalar on 14 April to mark the anniversary of the 1988 Anfal massacre of Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s forces.

Mira told Reporters Without Borders: “The Kurds have not been participating in events organized by the KDP or the PUK since 17 February. As a teacher at Kalal University, I decided to participate in the Anfal commemoration that the students spontaneously organized. Asayesh members came and asked me which one was Ahmed Mira. When I replied that it was me, they immediately began beating me. I was hit dozens of times. Fortunately the students came to my help.”

As his home in Sulaymaniyah was surrounded by security forces, Mira was unable to return to it until Prime Minister Barham Salih interceded. He says he plans to bring charges against the security forces. Meanwhile, there have been many shows of support for him from students since the attack.

Washington Post    April 21, 2011  03:11 PM ET

The contradictions of the Arab Spring
By David Ignatius

As the Arab Spring gathers force, it’s beginning to produce some internal contradictions between authoritarian politicians and the radical movements they’ve been backing, which are now caught up in the revolutionary fervor.

Two such cleavages — between Syria and its allies in Hamas, and between the traditional Kurdish leadership in Iraq and a growing Kurdish dissident movement — are already visible. More tensions are surely on the way as the push for self-determination creates a new landscape in the Arab world. As the popular slogan has it, “the barrier of fear is broken,” and traditional alliances are under strain. For example:

l?Hamas is increasingly caught between pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood to back revolution in Syria and its links to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This Hamas-Syria tension is outlined in an analysis prepared by Israel’s Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

For Hamas, it’s a problem of competing loyalties, according to the analysis provided by Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Khaled Meshal, the nominal leader of Hamas, is based in Damascus and operates with the approval of Assad’s regime. But Hamas also has links to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose campaign to topple Assad has won public support from Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a fiery preacher whose sermons are featured on al-Jazeera. Qaradawi is “the supreme religious and ideological authority of the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to the Israeli assessment.

On March 25, Qaradawi “called for a revolution in Syria, strongly criticized Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian regime, and expressed unconditional support for the revolutionists in Syria,” the Israeli analysis noted, continuing: “Thinking ahead, Hamas needs to take into account that complete identification with the Assad regime may compromise it if and when [Assad] is toppled.”

Kurdish leaders, facing popular protest against corrupt and undemocratic government in Iraqi Kurdistan, on Wednesday turned to Baghdad for help in quelling demonstrations that have rocked the Kurdish capital of Sulaymaniyah. Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq and also head of the old-line Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, is said to have requested help from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; a source in Sulaymaniyah said that Talabani depends on a 3,000-man “security force” that is largely Arab.

The Sulaymaniyah source said that when Talabani appeared there Monday in an effort to calm demonstrators, protesters began chanting: “Mu-bar-ak, Mu-bar-ak,” in a reference to the deposed Egyptian president. Talabani’s colleague in the PUK, Burham Salih, this week reportedly offered to resign as president of Iraqi Kurdistan to halt the protests.

“There have been mafia-style practices used against the free media in the region,” said Salih’s letter in an unusually blunt criticism of the Kurdish leadership, according to Agence France-Presse. The AFP said 95 people were wounded in clashes between police and security forces in Sulaymaniyah Sunday and Monday, and seven more on Tuesday.

Though Iraqi dissidents haven’t been much in the news, there’s a growing movement protesting the corruption and inefficiency that’s rampant in Maliki’s government in Baghdad and among the traditional parties that divide the spoils in Kurdistan. The possibility that a Kurdish leader might seek help from Iraqi Arabs would have been unimaginable several years ago. But local forces have not succeeded in quelling popular protest against the traditional Kurdish leaders, Talabani and Massoud Barzani.    April 25, 2011

A cry to the international community from Iraqi Kurdistan
By Kamal Chomani

For over 60 days Kurdish people protested against the two ruling parties, KDP and PUK, demanding radical reforms in the administration, eliminating corruption, support independent media and drastic reforms in the financial system. Day after day, protesters have been repressed harsher and received no positive responses from the authorities. So far, 9 protesters have been killed and more than 300 people have been injured.

We are astonished by the international community’s lack of interest in these grave violations of human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan. The International community have not been able to exert any pressures on the Kurdish administration to stop violence against peaceful protesters, politicians, civil activists, students, journalists, women and youth. The security forces of the PUK and KDP have used all means to end the protests which started on 17th of February, the first day of rage in Kurdistan – Iraq. On this very first day 2 people were killed and over 50 wounded.

The lives of four million citizens in Kurdistan can be at risk, if a civil war breaks out. Here in Kurdistan, democracy is in the falling cliff; civil liberties are under attack and freedom of thought and assembly is violated every day. An independent television stations was burned and independent journalists exposed to extreme violence by security forces. Many people have been arrested and many others have been kidnapped.

We, as vulnerable people, urge the international community to prevent the two ruling political groups, PUK and KDP, to turn the semi-independent Kurdistan region into a ruthless authoritarian regime. The current police state of the two parties is a threat to the citizens’ lives and to their civil liberties. We fear that the current violence may lead to the level of violence in Libya, Yemen and Syria, not only putting lives of thousands of innocent civilians are at risk, but also threatening the stability of the region.

In the last few days, security forces have arrested hundreds of protesters, attacked dozens of journalists, injured hundreds of protesters and arrested a high number of university lecturers. On 17th of April, 80 protesters injured, including three journalists and others were arrested. On 18th of April, 23 protesters were injured, 6 journalists physically assaulted and were injured; two MPs were attacked; many more were exposed of threats; and thousands of party militias are spread in Erbil quarters and streets. In Sulaymaniyah, security forces arrested dozens of people and injured more than 70 protesters. On 19th of April, more than 80 protesters were wounded, more than 15 university lecturers were arrested; in addition to the arrest of hundreds of students, and opening fire on peaceful protesters.

Although many international organisations have reported on the perpetration of KDP and PUK against the protesters, citizens, journalists and political activists in Kurdistan, but the international community have not exerted pressure on the ruling party to stop the violations.

You can find out in the links below the reference to the issue by three most prominent international organizations:,40052.html,40003.html,39949.html,39875.html
The author is a freelance journalist and a civil activist:    April 27, 2011

Talabani-Barzani Military Junta will not halt the social revolution
By Mufid Abdulla

In the Sulaymani area, Talabani and his henchman are operating like a military junta. Since 19 April they have deployed a huge number of soldiers and weaponry to suppress peaceful protests. There have been mass arrests, randomly targeting people from all walks of life - students, lecturers, poets, writers, merchants, and so one. The militias of the two ruling parties between them have a presence on almost every street and shop front. The city centre has become a ghost-land and the universities are empty. This repression has been enacted by Talibani and Barzani at a time when the whole of Iraq was groggily emerging from its worst situation since the 2003 war. It will contribute to a very bad image for the whole country and for Kurdistan in particular.

As David Ignatius stated last week in The Washington Post, Talabani brought 3000 troops from the Maliki government. This is not the first time Talabani and Barzani sold our souls and nation to our enemies. The Maliki state is our enemy because for the last eight years it has failed to implement Article 140 promising the normalisation of Kirkuk as a Kurdish city. The implications of this are extraordinary. Local writers and intellectuals have stated in the local news that this is worse even than Saddam’s brutality against this own people.

To understand Talabani’s methods, you just have to look at his past and his willingness to cooperate with the Iraqi regime, in the name of ‘leftism’, as far back as 1966. On the eve of Saddam’s demise he refused to sign the order for the execution of a brutal dictator on the pretext of respecting human rights.Within the PUK, power rests increasing with people from a purely military background. American diplomats in Iraq will not share any secrets with Talabani because of his well-established relationship with the Iranian regime, especially Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran. Talabani surprised some people by sending out letters of support to Mubarak in Egypt and Assad in Syria: even the Iraqi government was confused about this behaviour, but Talabani knew what he was doing.

The repression cannot completely silence the voice of freedom and liberalism in Kurdistan. However, the scale of the clamp down in the Sulaymani region has made peaceful resistance more difficult and some people may even consider a return to armed struggle. This is an obvious danger and it is one created by the actions of Talabani’s military junta. For me his actions are reminiscent of what happened in 1996 when he aligned himself with Iran to liberate Hawler, the capital of Kurdistan, He tried to regain Hawler by force, through a battle on Hamilton road. However, he failed to do so and also lost the Sulaymani region entirely as the forces of the KDP and Saddam combined to push him into Iran.

Talabani’s love for civil war and military conflict is not new to foreign observers. This is the reason you get suspicious when he calls himself a ‘champion of freedom’. He is a cold and heartless person. He has secured a stranglehold over most of the media and popular press. Kurdistan had good and bad leaders, but no such figures of disrepute as Talabani and Barzani. Kurdistan’s tragedy is to be caught between two authoritarian ideologies of fascism and communism. Both stifle change and discourage an independent Kurdistan with independent thinking.

Talabani and Barzani are men who seemingly have the ability to get away with anything and come out unscathed. As an American administrator stated in Jonathan Randal’s book “If I didn’t understand beforehand, why the Kurds never had a state of their own, now I can see why”. Now the entire Kurdish nation in the south is being swept up into a near-civil war mode.

There remains hope that massive popular demonstrations can finally force out Talabani and Barzani. There would be irresistible schadenfreude in seeing Barzani and Talabani and their friend Bashar al-Assad exit together. Kurdistan must find a leader who understands the need for dramatic change - to make them for purpose - in our politics and institutions. It will be a grave setback if Kurdistan fails to rise to the challenge.

The author is a regular writer:

Kurd Net    May 6, 2011

Kurdish conflicts threaten to upset Iraqi parliament's balance of power
By Yaseen Taha

ERBIL/SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Ongoing protests and political conflict in the Kurdish region of Iraq have reached the federal parliament in Baghdad and are threatening the balance of power there.

Since popular protests began in Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region in Iraq's that is home to Iraq’s Kurdish population, relations between the various political parties from the state have deteriorated.

Within the state government the various parties are often at odds but at a federal level, they have tended to vote together in the interests of the Kurdish people.
The major political parties that make up this group are the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Together they have 43 seats in the 325-seat Iraqi parliament. The other significant Kurdish parties in the parliament – the Change Movement and two Islamic parties – add another 14 seats. This has allowed the Kurdish politicians to play kingmaker in the past. Some decisions in the delicately balanced Iraqi parliament have come down to two or three votes.

But since protests broke out in Iraqi Kurdistan on Feb. 17 this year, relations between the parties have been tense and the atmosphere hostile.

A more official version of the Kurdish group was formed in September of 2010. Named the Kurdish Alliance, its rules dictated a monthly meeting between all partners. However as early as October 2010, the Movement for Change party, a Kurdish opposition group with eight seats in the federal parliament that broke away from the main political parties in the region in 2006 to demand an end to corruption and nepotism among the current leaders, withdrew from the alliance. They did so because they felt that the KDP and the PUK were not serious about democratic reform in Iraqi Kurdistan.

This has left only the two smaller Islamic parties in the Kurdish alliance together with the far larger KDP and PUK: the Kurdistan Islamic Union with its four seats and the Kurdistan Islamic Group with two seats.

But even this relationship has now become tense. During February, members of the KDP and PUK did not meet with members of the Islamic parties at all.

Sheikh Fateh Daroghay, a member of the Islamic group, told Niqash that the KDP and PUK have been making decisions without consulting the Islamic parties because they are upset about those parties' support of anti-regime protests in Kurdistan. “If this continues, it is most likely that the existing Kurdish coalition in Baghdad will collapse,” he warned.

Mohammed Kayani, a member of the Movement for Change, said that the largest Kurdish parties were busy working on political projects at a national level, together with the largest, non-Kurdish parties. “So they don’t care much about the opinions or support of the Kurdish opposition,” said the politician, who was beaten after he took part in recent protests in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Kayani believes that the Kurdish Alliance’s ongoing ability to sway the delicate balance of power in the federal parliament has led Iraq’s most powerful politicians, such as Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, to side with the KDP and the PUK against opposition parties in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“Al-Maliki and Nujaiki [the speaker of the house] are partners of the KDP and PUK in suppressing our voices,” Kayani said.

Mohammed Ahmad, head of the Shura, or consultative council, of the Kurdistan Islamic Union said that the two larger parties were treating them as though they were “enemies”. He argued that it was important to differentiate between what was going on at home and the Kurdish issues being discussed in Baghdad. Despite the acknowledged difficulties of working together with the KDP and PUK, Ahmad insisted the Kurdish voting bloc was still a viable force.

“There is no other way than working together with [the KDP and the PUK] in Baghdad. We are obliged to be united in Baghdad, in the interests of the Kurdish people. We cannot be independent when it comes to the region’s share of the federal budget,” he said. “We are prepared to be brothers in Baghdad and then act like a legal and healthy opposition in the Kurdistan region.”

Meanwhile Ala Talabani, a spokesperson for the Kurdish Alliance, denied the Kurdish Islamic parties’ claims. “Despite the oppositional stances they are taking against the two ruling parties, we have not changed our position or the way we deal with them in Baghdad,” she said. According to her, the delay in the Kurdish Alliance’s work was due mostly to holidays and the lack of any relevant issues at a federal level that would have required the Kurdish politicians to get together. “We are determined to work together in Baghdad,” Talabani stressed.

There are several issues that bring Kurdish politicians into conflict with the rest of Iraq – these include the oil and gas law, territorial disputes and whether money for Iraqi Kurdistan’s military comes out of Iraq’s national defence budget. But these have yet to be resolved. And all of the Kurdish politicians were quick to affirm that they won’t compromise on those issues. It is just, they said, that events back home have prevented them from meeting recently, to resolve a joint course of action.

Lvin Magazine    7th of May 2011

Peshmerge Minister threatened Lvin Magazine’s editor by death penalty

President of Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani
Prime Minister of KRG, Dr. Barham Salih
Vice President of Kurdistan Democratic Party, Nechirvan Barzani
US Diplomatic Team in Erbil
The British Consulate in Erbil
The French Consulate in Erbil
The German Consulate in Erbil
UNAMI in Iraqi Kurdistan
Amnesty International
Reporters without Borders
Committee of Protecting Journalists
Human Rights Watch

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq'    After 17th of February 2011, the first day of protests in Iraqi Kurdistan, that Kurdish authority faced a wave of rage from the people of Kurdistan.
Peshmerge Minister Shekh Jaafar Mustafa (R) threatened Ahmed Mira (L), the chief editor for Lvin weekly magazine by death penalty.
Kurdish security forces, police and Peshmerge (Kurdish Armed Forces) attacked journalists who were covering the incidents. Tens of journalists were beaten, tens of others were arrested and their journalistic equipments were taken.

Naliya Television and Radio in Sulaimaniyah was set on fire after three days broadcasting, Dang Radio was attacked in Kalar city, and afterwards, the symbols of Kurdish elite intellectuals were beaten and arrested.

Unfortunately, the Kurdish officials and KRG authority promised to stop the violence against Kurdish journalists, but still there are threats and plans against Kurdish journalists.

Earlier this May 2011, at exactly 7:46 Iraqi Time, Shekh Jaafar Mustafa, Minister of Peshmerge in Kurdistan Regional Government, in a telephone calling, threatened Ahmed Mira, the editor in chief of Lvin Magazine, by death Penalty.

However, KRG’s Peshmerge minister has threatened Ahmed Mira by death penalty, meantime, he has used some very dirty words if any listens to them, gets surprised.

This death threat of KRG’s Peshmerge minister, who is Patriotic Union Of Kurdistan, PUK’s member of Politburo as well, which led by Jalal Talabani, Iraqi President and Vice president of Social International organization, is in time with a wave of media campaign against our magazine and the staff, it is worthy to question why are we targeting to death threats and a wave of media by PUK’s media.

We in Lvin Magazine, from the very beginning of the event of death threatening by Shekh Jaafar, warned Dr Barham Salih, KRG’s prime minister, but unfortunately,www.ekurd.nettill now PM has not stepped any practical efforts to investigate the death threatening by one of his ministers in his cabinet and the threat is still terribly serious against the editor in chief of Lvin magazine, Ahmed Mira.

We warn all the sides that threats against journalists and chiefs of free media in Iraqi Kurdistan has come to the edge of a very dangerous time in which a minister without considering the responsibilities of his position, by his phone number and himself, threatens by death penalty against a Kurdish journalist. We also announce here that we have the recorded voice of Shekh Jaafar (if any has any doubts).

It has been for several times that Lvin magazine faces threats and attacks even terrorizing. In the year of 2008, one of our reporters was murdered and in the same year, a band tried to terrorize editor in chief of Lvin, the band lately were arrested. Now, we have been surprised that a KRG minister threatens us by himself.

Lvin magazine very frankly asks the high officials of KRG if this threat doesn’t express KRG’s opinion, so KRG should explain in an official press release and must condemn this threat by one of its ministers.

We are also asking all international organizations and the consulates in Iraqi Kurdistan, those that care about freedom of speech and press freedom, should use their diplomatic pressures on KRG and urge KRG on the threats and terror efforts against journalists.

We also want to remember Kurdistan Region President, Massoud Barzani, does he create a committee to investigate about this death threat and ask General Prosecutor to investigate about it?

We hope that Kurdistan Region President, Massoud Barzani clearly announce his position with regard to the death threat by Shekh Jafar, Peshmerge minister, against Ahmed Mira, editor in chief of Lvin magazine.

Meantime, we announce that editor if chief’s safety and all Lvin magazine’s staff, is in responsibility of KRG’s Peshmerge minister. We also announce that according to our natural rights, we file a lawsuit against this Kurdish official in the court. May 11, 2011

Noam Chomsky: 'The U.S. and its Allies Will Do Anything
to Prevent Democracy in the Arab World'
Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Chomsky analyzes the U.S. response to the uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of the national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky analyzes the U.S. response to the popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. "Across the [Middle East], an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests," Chomsky says. "The reason is very simple... Plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out."
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the 25th anniversary of FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the media watch group in New York, which just celebrated the 25 years of the reports they’ve come out, documenting media bias and censorship, and scrutinized media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

One of those who addressed the hundreds of people who gathered to celebrate FAIR was the world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky. This is some of what he had to say.

NOAM CHOMSKY: The U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. The reason is very simple. Across the region, an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests. In fact, opposition to U.S. policy is so high that a considerable majority think the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. In Egypt, the most important country, that’s 80 percent. Similar figures elsewhere. There are some in the region who regard Iran as a threat—about 10 percent. Well, plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out. So that’s obviously an intolerable result.

In the case of WikiLeaks, there was an interesting aside on this. The revelations from WikiLeaks that got the most publicity—headlines, euphoric commentary and so on—were that the Arabs support U.S. policy on Iran. They were quoting comments of Arab dictators. Yes, they claim to support U.S. policy on Iran. There was no mention of the Arab—of the Arab population, because it doesn’t matter. If the dictators support us, and the population is under control, then what’s the problem? This is like imperialism. What’s the problem if it works? As long as they can control their populations, fine. They can have campaigns of hatred; our friendly dictators will keep them under control. That’s the reaction not just of the diplomatic service in the State Department or of the media who reported this, but also of the general intellectual community. There is no comment on this. In fact, coverage of these polls is precisely zero in the United States, literally. There’s a few comments in England, but very little. It just doesn’t matter what the population thinks, as long as they’re under control.

Well, from these observations, you can conclude pretty quickly, pretty easily, what policies are going to be. You can almost spell them out. So in the case of an oil-rich country with a reliable, obedient dictator, they’re given free rein. Saudi Arabia is the most important. There were—it’s the most repressive, extremist, strongest center of Islamic fundamentalism, missionaries who spread ultra-radical Islamism from jihadis and so on. But they’re obedient, they’re reliable, so they can do what they like. There was a planned protest in Saudi Arabia. The police presence was so overwhelming and intimidating that literally nobody even was willing to show up in the streets of Riyadh. But that was fine. The same in Kuwait. There was a small demonstration, very quickly crushed, no comment.

Actually, the most interesting case in many respects is Bahrain. Bahrain is quite important for two reasons. One reason, which has been reported, is that it’s the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, major military force in the region. Another more fundamental reason is that Bahrain is about 70 percent Shiite, and it’s right across the causeway from eastern Saudi Arabia, which also is majority Shiite and happens to be where most of Saudi oil is. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the main energy resource, has been since the '40s. By curious accident of history and geography, the world's major energy resources are located pretty much in Shiite regions. They’re a minority in the Middle East, but they happen to be where the oil is, right around the northern part of the Gulf. That’s eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and southwestern Iran. And there’s been a concern among planners for a long time that there might be a move towards some sort of tacit alliance in these Shiite regions moving towards independence and controlling the bulk of the world’s oil. That’s obviously intolerable.

So, going back to Bahrain, there was an uprising, tent city in the central square, like Tahrir Square. The Saudi-led military forces invaded Bahrain, giving the security forces there the opportunity to crush it violently, destroyed the tent city, even destroyed the Pearl, which is the symbol of Bahrain; invaded the major hospital complex, threw out the patients and the doctors; been regularly, every day, arresting human rights activists, torturing them, occasionally a sort of a pat on the wrist, but nothing much. That’s very much the Carothers principle. If actions correspond to our strategic and economic objectives, that’s OK. We can have elegant rhetoric, but what matters is facts.

Well, that’s the oil-rich obedient dictators. What about Egypt, most important country, but not a center of—major center of oil production? Well, in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it. But when you have a favored dictator—for those of you who might think of going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it—when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him—like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him—then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime, maybe with new names. And that’s done over and over again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always tried—Somoza, Nicaragua; Shah in Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; Duvalier in Haiti; Chun in South Korea; Mobutu in the Congo; Ceausescu is one of Western favorites in Romania; Suharto in Indonesia. It’s completely routine. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia. OK, we support them right to the end—Mubarak in Egypt, right to the end, keep supporting him. Doesn’t work any longer, send him off to Sharm el-Sheikh, pull out the rhetoric, try to restore the old regime. That’s, in fact, what the conflict is about right now. As Amy said, we don’t know where it’s going to turn now, but that’s what’s going on.

Well, there’s another category. The other category is an oil-rich dictator who’s not reliable, who’s a loose cannon. That’s Libya. And there, there’s a different policy: try to get a more reliable dictator. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Of course, describe it as a humanitarian intervention. That’s another near historical universal. You check history, virtually every resort to force, by whoever it is, is accompanied by the most noble rhetoric. It’s all completely humanitarian. That includes Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia, the Japanese fascists rampaging in northeast China. In fact, it’s Mussolini in Ethiopia. There’s hardly any exceptions. So you produce that, and the media and commentators present—pretend they don’t notice that it has no—carries no information, because it’s reflexive.

And then—but in this case, they could also add something else, which has been repeated over and over again, namely, the U.S. and its allies were intervening in response to a request by the Arab League. And, of course, we have to recognize the importance of that. Incidentally, the response from the Arab League was tepid and was pretty soon rescinded, because they didn’t like what we were doing. But put that aside. At the very same time, the Arab League produced—issued another request. Here’s a headline from a newspaper: "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone." Actually, I’m quoting from the London Financial Times. That wasn’t reported in the United States. Well, to be precise, it was reported in the Washington Times, but basically blocked in the U.S., like the polls, like the polls of Arab public opinion, not the right kind of news. So, "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone," that’s inconsistent with U.S. policy, so that, we don’t have to honor and observe, and that disappeared.

Now, there are some polls that are reported. So here’s one from the New York Times a couple days ago. I’ll quote it. It said, "The poll found that a majority of Egyptians want to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Israel that has been a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy and the region’s stability." Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s been a cornerstone of the region’s instability, and that’s exactly why the Egyptian population wants to abandon it. The agreement essentially eliminated Egypt from the Israel-Arab conflict. That means eliminated the only deterrent to Israeli military action. And it freed up Israel to expand its operations—illegal operations—in the Occupied Territories and to attack its northern neighbor, to attack Lebanon. Shortly after, Israel attacked Lebanon, killed 20,000 people, destroyed southern Lebanon, tried to impose a client regime, didn’t quite make it. And that was understood. So the immediate reaction to the peace treaty in Israel was that there are things about it we don’t like—we’re going to have to abandon our settlements in the Sinai, in the Egyptian Sinai. But it has a good side, too, because now the only deterrent is gone; we can use force and violence to achieve our other goals. And that’s exactly what happened. And that’s exactly why the Egyptian population is opposed to it. They understand that, as does everyone in the region.

On the other hand, the Times wasn’t lying when they said that it led to the region’s stability. And the reason is because of the meaning of the word "stability" as a technical meaning. Stability is—it’s kind of like democracy. Stability means conformity to our interests. So, for example, when Iran tries to expand its influence in Afghanistan and Iraq, neighboring countries, that’s called "destabilizing." It’s part of the threat of Iran. It’s destabilizing the region. On the other hand, when the U.S. invades those countries, occupies them, half destroys them, that’s to achieve stability. And that is very common, even to the point where it’s possible to write—former editor of Foreign Affairs—that when the U.S. overthrew the democratic government in Chile and instituted a vicious dictatorship, that was because the U.S. had to destabilize Chile to achieve stability. That’s in one sentence, and nobody noticed it, because that’s correct, if you understand the meaning of the word "stability." Yeah, you overthrow a parliamentary government, you install a dictatorship, you invade a country and kill 20,000 people, you invade Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of people—that’s all bringing about stability. Instability is when anyone gets in the way.

AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned political dissident and linguist, Noam Chomsky, speaking at the 25th anniversary of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

CSI    May 16, 2011

May 18, 2011

Anger Lingers in Iraqi Kurdistan After a Crackdown

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq — The protesters are gone from the central square, pushed out by the brutal tactics of the security forces. The jails have been emptied of the young students and journalists who were rounded up for speaking their mind in public. The wounded are home, quietly nursing their injuries.

The pro-democracy protests sweeping the Arab world arrived in the semiautonomous Kurdish region of Iraq nearly three months ago, inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. But the protests here ended up more like those in Bahrain and Oman, crushed by an authoritarian government.

“We are ashamed of what they have done,” said Bayan Barwai, a member of the Islamic Union Party, an opposition party that supported the protests. “Sixty days and nothing.”

The crackdown in the region known as Iraqi Kurdistan, in which at least 10 people were killed, has exposed troubling questions about the kind of government the American war has left in Iraq’s most stable region, as well as accusations that the Americans condoned the violent response.

While the American invasion toppled Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, it has emboldened the Kurdish regional government, long dominated by two parties with an entrenched patronage system, to tighten its grip on power.

“The parties today behave just like how the Baathists behaved before,” said Chnor Muhammed, a 33-year-old journalist who received a wound to her left hand, referring to Mr. Hussein’s party.

The protests that broke out here in mid-February took the Kurdish region by surprise. Located in northern Iraq, it has been relatively free of the violence that tore the rest of the country apart, making it a haven for foreign investment, and it has close ties to the United States, which has provided security guarantees stretching back to the days of the no-fly zone after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

During the February demonstrations, protesters in Sulaimaniya gave flowers to the Kurdish regional government’s security forces as a gesture of peace but to no avail: at least 10 people were killed when the protests were broken up. Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times

Nearly every day, hundreds and, at times, thousands of people turned out in the central square of Sulaimaniya to demand an end to joint rule by a two-party system, which they said was corrupt and repressive. The protesters demanded the resignations of high-ranking officials, the installation of a temporary government and new elections.

“People here are as frustrated as the rest of the Middle East,” said Muhammed Tawfeek, the spokesman of Gorran, an opposition party that joined the street protests.

He said the crackdown, and threat of arrest, sent many of the protest organizers into hiding. “There are lots of young people who can’t go back to their universities or their homes,” he said.

After more than two months of daily protests, the demonstrations were quashed last month when the regional government ordered the security forces to occupy the central square. The security forces opened fire and detained protesters, actions that registered sharp rebukes from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The crackdown has presented an unexpected challenge to American diplomats who have relied on the region to be a stable counterpoint to the continued violence and political dysfunction that roils the rest of Iraq.

“Kurdistan is the only place in Iraq that the United States can be proud of,” said Airy Hirseen, a leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which governs the region along with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Mr. Hirseen said that he had been in contact with American officials during the protests, and that they did not press the authorities to end their aggressive response.

A number of witnesses said that an American military officer was seen at the central square during the protests, and the perception grew among the demonstrators that the Americans condoned the harsh response.

“They gave the green light for the P.U.K. to do whatever they want to the protesters,” said Adnan Osman, a member of the regional Parliament from the Gorran party. “The embassy should give a statement and clear it up.”

An American Embassy spokesman said the Americans urged the Kurdish security forces to show restraint, and for both sides to refrain from violence.

“The U.S. position has been clear: the people in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, like people throughout Iraq and indeed throughout the region, have the universal right to demonstrate peacefully, to freely assemble, to seek redress from their government and to express themselves without fear of intimidation or death,” said the spokesman, David J. Ranz. “We have encouraged the Kurdistan regional government to respond to the legitimate grievances and concerns expressed by the demonstrators.”

The Kurdish government, however, has not undertaken any significant reforms since the unrest began, illustrating what many see as waning American influence as the United States approaches the deadline to withdraw all of its troops.

“The Kurds are an important American ally and the domestic situation in Iraq is very fragile, and Washington is wary of weighing in heavily in a way that could rock an already unstable boat,” said Kenneth Pollack, an expert on national security issues at the Brookings Institution.

He said the Americans’ response to the crackdowns was similar to its response to unrest in other countries, particularly Bahrain, with whom the Americans believe they need a long-term strategic relationship.

American officials said there had been some positive signs, like a recent request by the Kurdish government for help training its forces on crowd control. According to Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, the American officer in charge of advising and training Iraqi forces, the training was recently provided.

Meanwhile, some Kurdish officials have echoed other authoritarian governments in the region. Mr. Hirseen, the Kurdistan Democratic Party leader, blamed a trinity of state enemies for the protests: terrorists, foreign agents and Islamic extremists.

The opposition has said those charges are absurd. Mr. Tawfeek, the Gorran spokesman, said: “There is no Islamic flavor in it. It’s all about democracy, separation of power and clean elections.”

Mr. Hirseen said the protests and his government’s response reflected a generational divide between the democratic aspirations of Kurdish youth and the traumas of dictatorship, civil war and genocide that still haunted the old guard. The current leadership, which came of age when violence was the norm, is more likely to see violence as an acceptable tool of government authority. “You can’t be surprised with people in my generation who say, ‘I love guns.’ ” he said.

For now, the protest movement here has stalled, but the anger among the opposition and young generation is only growing.

“I don’t think it’s over,” said Mr. Osman, of Gorran. “The boiling will continue. I think the protests will start again, even stronger.”

Duraid Adnan and an employee of The New York Times contributed reporting.    May 20, 2011

About the Crisis in Kurdistan
By Nawshirwan Mustafa

Kurdistan Is Gripped In The Midst Of Turmoil. Yes. Kurdistan is in crisis. The crisis that engulfed Kurdistan did not just came into existence today. It is not the reverberation of the crises that is sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. It is not the outcome of the recent demonstrations that filled up the streets of some cities of Kurdistan. It is not orchestrated by the opposition; Gorran Movement, Islamic Assembly and Islamic Union.

The Crisis in Kurdistan is not the product of any of these factors. The causes behind it are older than all of these factors. It is a deep and comprehensive crisis that has political, economic, social and cultural dimensions.

The crisis in Kurdistan was borne out of the political system that governs the region of Kurdistan. It is the product of political, social and cultural policies deployed by the two governing parties, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Until few weeks ago, none of the leadership of these two parties, nor anyone of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials were prepared to acknowledge the existence of any crisis. Indeed, they would respond angrily to the very mention of it, till the situation reached boiling point and almost reached the level of overthrowing the government. Only then they accepted that;

Yes. There is a crisis in Kurdistan. Yes. Kurdistan needs reforms. In spite of these admissions, they are yet to come even close to identifying the causes of the crisis or to propose solutions.

The current crisis in Kurdistan stems from four factors:
-    The first factor is the diminished trust of the people that they had in these two parties. It stems from the erosion of the faith of the people in their promises and the integrity of their leaders.
-    The second factor is the erosion of faith of the party’s rank and files and the cadres of the party apparatus in the leadership of their own party. This was exasperated by the several years long wait of the membership of the party for the much delayed conference.
-    The third factor is the erosion of trust between individual members of the party leadership that is reflected in the open and hidden rivalries that involves their persons as well as their entourage to undermine each others.
-    The fourth factor is the erosion of trust between the two main governing parties. None of these two parties trust the other enough to hand over power or sensitive apparatuses to each other.

This quadruplet crisis of loss of trust, with each factor reinforces the other, has plunged Kurdistan in a vicious circle. This crisis could be termed as Crisis of Trust.

The consequences of this crisis have directly contributed toward undermining and weakening the institutions of the regional government in Kurdistan, the very institutions that should be the tools to solve the crisis. The legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, that should have been the reconciliatory arbitrator amongst the people and the instruments by which the crisis could be defused, have become part of the problem and have been drawn into the labyrinth that the two ruling parties have constructed. Therefore, the erosion of trust in the parties and their policies have impinged upon and reinforced the erosion of trust in the executive, the legislative and judiciary authorities.

Social Harmony
Social Harmony is the main pillar of National Security. The prevalence of social harmony is an essential prerequisite to the prevalence and maintenance of National Security. Harmony must exist between different ethnicities, different religions and sects, different cultures, different social classes and opposing political views, in spite of the differences between them. To achieve this coveted harmony certain conditions have to be met:
    First, acknowledging the existence of these differences and respecting their individualities and accepting each other with the differences.
    Second, establishing equality for all citizens, in the constitution, the written law as well as implementing it in practice.
    Third, the firm conviction and believe of all citizen that, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, local and tribal origins, they are equal stakeholder in the wealth of the nation and equal participants in the determination of its future.

Today the social harmony in Kurdistan is in great danger. The danger is generated by the ruling political elite. Because they have divided the region into two single-party-rule areas, in which each of these two areas they have imposed the status of two-tier-citizenship. The ruling parties have replaced the notion of the patriotic loyalty of the citizens to the nation as a whole, with the notion of the loyalty of individuals to the ruling party as a measure to determine the class of the citizens.

The tier of first-class citizens consists of the party membership, rank and file and supporters, who systematically benefit from political, financial, economic and social privileges.

The second class citizen tier consist of all of these citizens who are outside the party circle, and in order to force them inside, they are deprived of the rulers privileges.

Never in the lifespan of Kurdish rule since the uprising of 1991 that social harmony has been threatened as much as it is today. The political and social conflicts are deepening, while economic and cultural problems are worsening.

On the one hand, a widening gap between the impoverished majority and a privileged minority, who grow rich as a result of the alliance of the political rulers and the leaders of the economic and commercial activities, is threatening the social harmony. On the other hand, the growing conflict between the supporters of wider freedoms and those who wish to limit the liberties, the ruling leadership, has pushed the latter even more strongly to legitimise a partisan-totalitarian regime and to convert the elitist party-political establishment into national state institutions, which poses even more threats to social harmony, a pillar of national security.

The events that followed the 17th February have accentuated few realities:
    First, the political system that governs all aspects of life in the society has created a fissure within it. It has divided the society into oppressor and oppressed, where the oppressed, in spite of their different ideologies, social status, education and intellectual abilities, have risen to demand their rights.
    Second, the ruling elite are not hesitant to use any form of violence in order to maintain the “status quo” and to repress the people. The goal of attaining and maintaining social harmony in their view is subservient to the goal of maintaining their rule and grip on power.

The Authority Disregards the People
The third election of the Kurdistan Parliament took place in July 2009, when the people participated with great enthusiasm and expectations.

The ruling parties, specifically Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), resorted to all kinds of tricks to sway the outcome of the election in their advantage:
    - They used the armed forces of Peshmerga (Kurdish Armed Forces), Security and Police to their unfair advantage to secure a favourable outcome.
    - They used the influence of the government ministries, the civil servants of the general directorates, the head of work-units in the work fields and the head teachers of many schools to their benefit.
    - They drew huge sums from the public purse.
    - They utilised the mighty propaganda machines of their party media, which is also funded from public funds.
    - They manipulated to their advantage the large network of the region’s contacts with Iraq proper and the outside world.
    - They have distributed thousands of pieces of land, guns, computers and cars buy off the people’s loyalties, contrary to law and norms of democracy.

In addition to all of the above:
    - They threatened the supporters of the other parties and even assaulted Gorran’s activists in their homes and their branch-quarters with firearms.
    - They started exacting political punishment such as dismissal from work, stopping payment of wages, transferring work locations to remote areas, daily intimidation and degradation, imprisonment, arrest and persecution.
    - Worst of all, they devised and implemented a systematic falsification and rigging of the election process and the results.

In spite of all this, many people, including supporters of Gorran Movement, KIU and KIA, reluctantly accepted the election result with the hope that, first, the protests of the streets would be transferred to the Parliament chambers, and second, the ruling parties would review their conducts and take note of their diminishing public support.

The strange thing was the reluctance of the ruling parties to take head and learn the lessons of the past. They prevented the opposition, which in practice became the advocates of the views of the protesters on the street, to play any role in shaping the legislations that defined the political system. Nor did they allow the opposition to block those legislations that reconfigured the system to suit the one-party-rule or those that contradicted the principals of human rights. They filibustered the opposition-sponsored legislations that would have made the governing system more respectful of the law, democratic and open. They even prevented the Parliament to play its crucial role as the bona fide monitor of the government. Instead, they behaved even worse, notably:
    - To forcefully organise all citizens into their parties.
    - To quickly isolate the opposition groups in the Parliament and to silence the protest voices outside the Parliament.
    - To persecute supporters of the opposition, especially supporters of Gorran Movement, and chase them out of the civil service organisations as well as the marketplace and private sector.
    - To siphon public funds from the national budget and use it to further strengthen their party organisations.

Iraqi National Assembly election
The conduct of both ruling parties during the March 2010 election for the Iraqi National Assembly reached the pinnacle of irresponsibility.

The angry streets, which were happy with the emergence of the opposition in the Parliament, lost their faith in the opposition’s ability to influence events through Parliament and to bring about a minimum level of social justice, to improve public services, to combat corruption or to harness reforms of the political system. The streets rose up.

The first up-rising came about in the wake of the assassination of Serdasht Osman. The second was in response to the ratification of the restrictive Demonstration Law.

Not only did the authority ignore the protests on the streets, but it aggravated the situation by resorting to the flimsy technical excuses of “Majority and Minority” in the Parliament, they attempted to railroad a series of undemocratic programs that would maintain the one-party-rule and guarantee the perpetuity of their control over the Parliament.

The desperate population, who lost their hope in the effectiveness of the Parliament or the Government, rose up for the 3rd time.

The third uprising that started in Ber Derky Sera square in the heart of Sulaimaniyah on 17th February 2011 was ignited with the killing of one 15 years old young boy and the injury of 55 others in Salim Boulevard. It was concurrent with the victories of the people of Tunisia and Egypt.

The collapse of the regimes of each Zain Al-Abdeen bin Ali in Tunisia and Husni Mubarak in Egypt did not push the rulers of Kurdistan to learn the lessons and take the initiative and implement the demands of the people. Those demands that have been repeated for years by the public on the street, by the independent press, even members of rank and files of their own parties, and lately by the opposition groups that was eventually articulated by Gorran Movement in a 7 paragraph statement issued on 29th January 2011. Instead, they resorted to oppression, confrontation, intimidation and even killing and arresting protestors.

Oppression on its own did not curb the tension. The gathering and demonstrations continued. The rulers were afraid that it would spill over to other parts of Kurdistan, especially Hawler, the capital, and would increase the pressure on them. To defuse the situation, they tried to contain the protest of the people of Kurdistan, the opposition groups and the Kurds abroad so they could come out of the crisis without giving in any concessions to the people. Therefore, they resorted to a multi-facetted strategy:
    First: to suppress the uprising of the people with state terrorism and to pacify them with false promises.
    Second: to wage an all-out war against the opposition groups; such as media campaign, financial and movement restrictions, psychological war, political persecution, deployment of armed forces in formal fatigue and civilian clothes in the cities and towns. They attempted to draw the opposition to the negotiation table for a long and protracted dialogues to compel them to accept their conditions.

Demonstration and Civil War
Every time there is a mention of demonstrations the state media and the ruling elite, even on occasion well meaning independent individuals too, warn the people from the dangers of civil war. No doubt the people are right to be frightened by the spectre of civil war, since it has brought devastation and miseries in loss of lives and property, as well as serious damage and set back to the Kurdish national cause. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at the dynamics between demonstrations and civil war.

The attempts to frighten the public with the possibilities of “civil war” when they face public demonstrations of a general, political or industrial purposes is a symptom of the backwardness and archaic political thinking of the Kurdish rulers, compared to the advancements in the developing world. Since the ruling parties in Kurdistan have decided to rule forever, they view any critical movement on the street, however peaceful it may be expressed, no matter by whichever political or social group, they view it as a hostile act committed by an internal enemy. And internal enemies, being the weakest forms of enemies, must be dealt with by brute force.

The traditional parties of Kurdistan did not have the opportunity to take the Parliamentary routs and exercise lawful civil means of struggle during the Kurdish revolt. They only could resort to secretive underground armed struggle. That is how the two parties emerged and through these methods they built their organisation and popular bases. They are still trapped in these methods of thinking and modus operandi:
    First: They consider the possession of armed forces as a prerequisite to maintaining their interest and continue their rule.
    Second: they view the balance of power only through the number of guns they and their opponents have and that is how they weigh their strength against their opponents.
    Third: they view the civic means of struggle, outside the boundaries of armed-politics, as unnatural, conspiracy, foreign-designs, coup d’etat, trouble-making and sabotage.
    Fourth: Whenever they are faced with a deadlock in a dispute with another group they always resort to settle the stand-off in their favour by using force, because they are not used to, nor do they believe in, the civil means of winning arguments through demonstrations, picketing or strikes.

Demonstrations, strikes, marches, rallies and petitions are all legitimate means of expressions of protest against a specific issue or demands for economic, political, social, cultural and even environmental resolutions. These means are followed as a matter of norm in the democratic societies as well as those nations that have moved on from The armed-struggle phases. While these methods are still regarded by the ruling parties in Kurdistan as hostile acts of sabotage and destruction, because these kind of means have not yet been accommodated in their thinking culture. But if they want to leave the underground struggle phase that involved sabotage and guerrilla warfare behind, they have to get used to this modern and civilised form of conflict management.

So where does the threat of civil war stem from?
A political civilised group that has no armed forces, that even when it has been unjustly cheated in the election process and lost it through rigging, falsification and violation, cannot wage a civil war. Whether it accepts or reject it, the election results will be forced on it.

But for those parties who command armed forces and vying with each other over the political power, if the election result did not match their desires even after rigging and falsifications, they would wage war rather than accepting the election result. This is when a civil war could be started.

The main excuse for KDP and PUK forging the Strategic Accord, whatever its secret clauses maybe, was to stymie the possibility of another civil war occurring between these two parties, since both parties were armed and neither of them were prepared to concede to the other.

The danger of civil war stems from those parties that are still refusing to accept the civil-political competition, never accepting the orderly handover of power, and still commanding armed forces. They use these armed forces to maintain their grip on power, to intimidate the population and to win elections.

The danger of civil war stems from those parties that command armed forces and not from those parties that have no weapons. That is why, to eradicate the danger of civil war, the political parties should be stripped of their armed forces. Their armed forces should be converted from militia to one national army. A National army that maintains a neutral stance when different political parties disagree on policies or fight elections.

We Do Know What We Want!
The political crisis in Kurdistan will not disappear or become less serious if the two ruling parties, or any other party, ignore or disregard it. The leadership of the two parties, or as they self-style themselves the “Political Leadership”, place themselves above the three main authorities; legislative, executive and judiciary. They can deal with this crisis in one of two possible ways:
    First, they can view it as a matter of protecting the security of the region from trouble and unrest and to put some “security solutions” to tackle it.
    Second, to view it as a matter of rejection by the people of a failing, corrupt and disingenuous government that failed to provide the minimum aspirations of the people and to search for “political solutions” to tackle it from various angles.

If they decided to treat it as a security threat, as they have done so far, then they will continue to mobilise the Peshmerga, Security, Police, Zanyary (PUK’s Intelligent Services) and Parastin (KDP’s Intelligent Services) to lay siege to the people and repress it even more violently and more brutally.

This approach would go against the grain in the political atmosphere that is prevailing in Kurdistan, Iraq and the Middle East. Even if the ruling parties manage to secure a partial or temporary blackout of news, it will still end with the demise of their reign.

But if they decide to take the second approach, then they have to show their genuine intentions and commitment to the “political solution” by taking the following measures:
    First, they have to restore the normal conditions in Kurdistan and end the state of emergency completely. They have to cease all measures of persecution or intimidation of opposition groups. They have to remove all measures and symbols of oppression of our streets.
    Second, they have to engage in a genuine and serious dialogue to arrive at consensus on radical reform of the governing system in the region, on the mechanism and methods of implementing it, and on the timeframe.

It has been frequently stated by the ruling elite, or through their commentators, university lecturers and “Political Observers”, that those people – and they mean us– do not know what they want!

Yes Masters! We do know what we want. And you too know what we want. We, in our turn, know what you want. But to prevent any possible ambiguity, we say it again laud and clear:

We want radical reforms!
Radical reforms consists of changing the government system of one-party totalitarian rule of PUK in Sulaimaniyah and the one-party totalitarian rule of KDP in Hawler and Duhok, to the government of Kurdistan National Institutions. Hence, thus the maladies and thus the remedies!

Source: This article was originaly published in Kurdish on About the Crisis in Kurdistan

Christian Science Monitor    May 24, 2011

No Arab Spring for the Kurds -
if the current Kurdish leadership can help it
By Dan Murphy, Staff writer

One generally overlooked part of the Arab Spring (a phrase I detest yet can't seem to escape) has been Iraq.

The country has had eight years of American-led military occupation, so it doesn't fit neatly into the Western media narrative of young, fed-up Arabs railing against oppression. Iraq's protests over rampant corruption and autocratic official behavior have been dismissed by the nation's leaders as the result of outside agitation (sound familiar?) and largely consigned to the back pages.

Iraq already got rid of its dictator, after all. We're told by the US that Iraq is one of the region's strongest democracies. So, surely its people aren't fed up in the same way with their government, right? (Well, no.)

And it's not just Arab Iraqis. If Iraq is awkward for the media narrative, then the Kurds have tied it into pretzels. The ethnic minority was gassed by Saddam Hussein at Halabja, were protected as a de facto independent enclave by a no-fly zone after the first Gulf War, emerged as kingmakers in the Iraqi parliament, and are generally portrayed in the press as America-loving, western-leaning success story.

When Saddam was still in power, "free Kurdistan" was a popular stop for journalists, who were welcomed with open arms by Kurdish leaders and their doughty peshmerga fighters. After the US invasion and the insurgency had begun, a reporting trip to Kurdistan was a welcome relief from the grind of Arab Iraq's civil war. The Kurds were the little guy, and sand had been kicked in their faces (and far worse) for centuries, so their coverage was and has been generally positive.

But Kurdistan's leaders behave much like the autocrats of the Arab world, and their own people have been chafing at their restraints amid the uprisings from Tunisia to Syria. The Kurdish government has met local protests with violence and repression.

In Sulaymaniyah last month, government forces violently cleared Sara Square of democracy protesters. The square had been visited by hundreds of mostly young Kurds every day, demanding an end to the corruption and entrenched patronage networks of Kurdistan's two ruling parties and fair elections.

This week, The Kurdistan Tribune began publishing. The English language news site laid down the gauntlet to Kurdistan's leaders. "Twenty years after the establishment of Kurdish rule in the south of Kurdistan," they wrote, "the recent mass protests against corruption and the harsh crackdown by the ruling parties highlight the need for a fresh look at our nation’s prospects."

By writing "in the south of Kurdistan," they're referring to Kurdish Iraq. Many Kurds dream of a greater Kurdistan stitching together Kurdish enclaves in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran.

Of course, the Tribune laid down the gauntlet from a safe distance (it's based in Europe), since the Kurdistan Regional Government in the midst of a wide-ranging press crackdown using "libel suits, beatings, detentions, and death threats," according to Human Rights Watch. Reporters Without Borders says there have been 44 attacks on reporters and 23 arrests of reporters in Kurdistan since mid-February.

"In a time when the Middle East is erupting in demands to end repression, the Kurdish authorities are trying to stifle and intimidate critical journalists," HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson said in a press release.

Both Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani currently have libel suits pending against the editor in chief of Livin magazine, a Kurdish magazine. Mr. Talabani runs the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Mr. Barzani runs the Kurdish Democratic Party. Their families and parties have been the unchallenged poles of Kurdish political life for generations.

HRW says that Kurdish forces beat Kurdistan News Network reporter Bryar Namiq on May 11. The group says a number of local journalists have gone into hiding since they covered antiregime protests in April. Soran Umar is a journalist who helped organize the anticorruption protests and has been in hiding since April 19.

"My sin is that I am criticizing the undemocratic acts of [the Kurdish Regional Government] and the two ruling parties ... the security forces have tried to kidnap me, and they have ordered my arrest. They even tried to kidnap my son," he told Human Rights Watch.    May 27, 2011

Self-determination, independence or federation
By Asad Khailany

The simple meaning of self determination is nations have the rights to establish their own governments on their own lands, adopt any system they wish; such as capitalist, Islamic, Jewish, communist, socialist, or any other system. Nations may also choose to create union or federation with other nations. Kurdistan people like any other people have the right for self-determination. History proved that self-determination rights have never been granted, but taken. Many nations succeeded to gain self-determination rights, some achieved it by taking advantageous of some unpredictable historical opportunities; some others did it through political, or nonpolitical struggles, or armed revolutions.

Kurdistan people struggled for self-determination in all forms with exception of adopting terrorist tactics for a very long time perhaps for several centuries. Few years ago in a special election in southern Kurdistan, over 95% of legitimate voters voted for an independent Kurdistan. In spite of that all political parties accepted the federation. The question is if they accepted it.

The answer is they realized during 2003 through 2007 when America needed badly the Kurdish support in Iraq and the Kurds did not asked for independent a golden opportunity for independent was lost. The leadership concluded that federation is the best thing that they could get at this time. They accepted a less promising alternative maybe hoping to bring all Kurdistan territories in Southern Kurdistan including Kirkuk, Khaniqeen, Mendly, Sinjar, Maghmoor, etc. To be under KRG’s administration. They have not succeeded so far.

Why such costly long struggle did not succeed? In my opinion following are some of the reasons why Kurdistan people could not obtain their self-determination rights:
    1. Lack of education: It is much hard to colonize, and subdue literate nations than illiterate nations. Many people in Kurdistan were scientifically and politically illiterate.
    2. Tribalism: Pride of tribalism, obedience, and faithfulness to tribalism have been stronger than the same to nationalism. During the Kurdish history, tribal interests were preferred above the national interests. The enemies of Kurdistan people realized these facts well and took full advantage of it to assure that any demand, uprising and attempt by Kurdistan people to achieve self-determination to fail. Most modern or not so modern Kurdistan political parties without realizing somewhat adopted a system similar to tribalism. Obedience to a party, faithfulness to a party, and pride being a member of a party has been stronger than their counter parts to nationalism.
    3. Desire to be the chief: Educated or not, most individuals who belong to a tribal system, or to a party, or involved in a movement want to be chiefs, and sole decision makers within that organization. Even the Kurds in diasporas we being among them yet have not being able to completely accept the principle that one can significantly enhance the movement to achieve its goals without being the sole chief of the organization, and not everyone has to be a chief.
    4. Lack of experience with democratic principles: With the absence of democratic environment in the region the political parties have not learned how to work with each other for common goals.
    5. Lack of Unity: Failure of Kurdistan political parties and organizations to adopt United Free Kurdistan as its goal. The exception to that was PKK, however PKK in the last few years joined the other Kurdistan political parties and accepted the slogan of the enemies of Kurdistan people that independent Kurdistan is unpractical, and Kurdistan people should hope only for some kind cultural and human rights.
    6. Lack of influence on media: Kurdistan people did not have the desire to immigrate to the western countries. In 1966 the population of Kurds in the United State of America was 15. Until late 1980s Kurdistan people did not spent any serious efforts to influence international news media, or create any kind lobbies among the nations and countries that are the leaders of the world. Indeed KNC was the first Kurdistan organization that realized these facts, and through its efforts the current Kurdish political parties and organizations were introduced to American peoples and the US government.
    7. Strong anti Kurdish lobby in US: The sources for information on the Kurds to our American people and to the US government were the governments of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the other traditional enemies of Kurdistan people.

What can we do as individuals? In my option recognizing the shortcoming and overcoming them is essential. It is the duty of all individual Kurd in or outside Kurdistan to use all new technology such as web sites, Face book, twitter, etc to promote, defend our nation. We should ask our self each week what I have done to help my people this week.

The author Asad Khailany, Emeritus Professor, and gave his paper in the Kurdish National Congress of North America, 23rd Annual Conference, April 30, 2011, Calgary, Canada

GOGEL    28th May 2011

Mock-democary, broken promises & self-serving policies
do have consequences
by Anton Keller

Dear friend of the Mosul Vilayet,

    Thank you for attending this meeting, and thanks to Sheik Salar, Ekopolitik and others who made it possible. That includes Dilshad Barzani, the KRG Representative to Germany, who ordered the greatly appreciated reference letter of April 15, 2011, which facilitated the some 40 preparatory meetings with the following encouraging words:
    "Mr.Anton Keller, Swiss citizen, ... is visiting the Kurdistan Region on behalf of the 'Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers'.
His visit is welcome in the Kurdistan Region. ... I would highly appreciate any assistance given to him when traveling to, and in the Region, and in any instances where he would require assistance."

    On May 15, in a summary email to all discussion partners, and in response to the general acceptance of the proposal to hold a dialogue meeting at the end of May - which several KRG representatives had explicitly and repeatedly welcomed and promised to support -, I stated inter alia:
    "Between April 15-25, I was privileged to meet again old friends and acquaintances in Arbil, Dokan, Sulaimanyia, and Kirkuk. They included governing and opposition party leaders and members of the organising committee of the protest movement. Sheik Salar Al Hafeed, my colleagues from the Turkish think tank Ekopolitik ( and I were thus able to present our background and plans for one or more possible follow-up meetings aimed at regionally stabilizing steps and mutually helpful road-holding measures based on existing national and international minority and private property protection guarantees and obligations. And we learned from you first-hand
-    how government representatives and opposition politicians and demonstration leaders analyse the evolving political situation,
-    which key demands have been formulated, upheld and responded to, and which are yet to be received,
-    what is now expected from the current power holders and what are they prepared to discuss,
-    how things may play out in which time frame, and
-    what you expect from us in our capacity as desinterested neutral outsiders and NGOs."
    I also noted: "We've continued to reflect on the highly appreciated different inputs from your side - and have actually incorporated most of the material we became aware of in our bibliography ( and, notably in our ... draft declaration for resolving in particular the burning Kirkuk issue [e.g.] by way of the proposed Mosul Vilayet Senate (.../senate.doc)."
    And, of course, I expressed my concern for "the fate notably of these [eventually] still arrested leaders of and participants in the protest movement" whom we have met and whom we have understood to be an indispensable part of the evolving political solution.

    Yet, KRG's letter to the co-organising Turkish institute Ekopolitik of May 16, formally stated: "The KRG would like to inform you that due to previously scheduled commitments, we cannot accept your invitation to take part in this event [of May 28/29 in Erbil]. We suggest contacting local civil society organizations to assist you in further organizing this event." My repeated requests for clarifications have yet to draw the courtesy of a reply - perhaps reflecting unfounded fears of loss of power to positively influence the future course of events. But it added to an atmosphere which has been less than reassuring. Indeed, reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, CSI, and other civil society organisations continue to cause concern. The shocking violent death notably of Salah Jmor, Sardasht Osman, Rezhwan Ali Ahmed, Sherzad Taha Abdulrahman, Surkew Zahir Mahmud, Garmian Ahmed Fars, Omed Jalal Karim, Bilal Ahmed Aabdullah, Rashid Muhamad Murad, Hardi Faruq Othman, Ali Rasul (peshmerga), and Sarkar Hama Saeed (policeman) have yet to be elucidated. As is the case with the inadmissable kidnapping notably of Sarwar Al Hafeed. And while dialogue meetings may help overcome some barriers, we still miss the precondition for fruitful discussions, i.e. the minimum genuine respect for each other which I called for in my statement at the Halabja commemoration recently held at the UN in Geneva (.../youth.htm). To be sure - appreciatively - a confidant of us reported on May 21: "I could not find any people who are still in the prisons ..." Yet, he added anxiously: "... but there are still some people under threat, even death threat, specifically journalists."

    In light of this mixed bag, I wish all of you well but, regrettably am unable to participate in such meetings. That is:
1.   until the responsible Iraqi authorities will no longer be impeded - e.g. by "previously scheduled commitments" -  to participate in the shaping of Iraq's future, and instead will act more fully in line with their pledges and obligations;
2.   until the death or disappearance of demonstrators, journalists etc. will be elucidated & all prisoners accounted for;
3.   until communications with Mosul Vilayet residents in particular will no longer be censured, hacked or impeded;
4.   until, e.g., Transparency International will be given credible opportunities to investigate corruption charges; and
5.   until the research results and recommendations concerning the Mosul Vilayet - made, a.o., by the United Nations and its predecessor, as well as by the International Crisis Group, the International Committee for European Security and Co-operation and the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers in particular - will no longer, like anno 1992, be attempted to be misappropriated by anyone for partisan ends on the back of Iraq's other constitutive communities.

    Indeed, there are opportunities now for bona fide efforts to identify, develop and eventually implement practical and road-holding solutions which will be equitably and genuinely beneficial and acceptable to all constitutive communities of the Mosul Vilayet in particular. Accordingly, I shall recommend to the powers that be, as well as to interested lawmakers in Iraq and abroad - notably to members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of the European Parliament and of the Swiss and other national parliaments - to encourage and lend their support to both the KRG and the opposition forces. Notably in as much as they wish and genuinely pursue the realisation of Iraq's national and international minority and private property protection guarantees and obligations - peacefully, in good faith, and with reliable assurances particularly with regard to all meeting participants' safety, welfare, and due respect for them.


Anton Keller, Secretary, Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers
+4122-7400362    +4179-6047707

Washington Post    June 2, 2011

Iraqi protesters’ arrest sparks concern
By Tim Craig and Asaad Majeed

An Iraqi demonstrator wears a mask with the Arabic word "Government" written on it during a protest against corruption, unemployment and poor public services in Baghdad on May 6, 2011 - AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

BAGHDAD — Four Iraqi men who were apparently swept into an unmarked van during anti-government demonstrations last week are still being held, family members said Thursday. And their arrests have provoked more protests in Baghdad’s main square, including one on Friday.

For months, groups of students and activists have been gathering in Tahrir Square, demanding government reforms, jobs, more electricity and clean water. With often only a few hundred participants, the weekly demonstrations this spring have been far smaller and restrained than some in other Arab capitals.

But at the May 27 protest, according to demonstrators, several security officials tossed four young men into an “ambulance” that had pulled up beside them. The four, three of whom are college students, have been held since their arrest, and friends and parents say they have been unable to see them.

“They were walking before the demonstration started, and it was a strange ambulance because it was just white without the red lines,” said Mohammad Fenjan, 30, the brother-in-law of one of the men. “It was so clear it was a security unit inside because there was both guys in there with civilian and military uniforms inside.”

On Thursday, 13 protest organizers were released after soldiers in Humvees raided a gathering in Baghdad the day after the May 27 arrests, said Hana Edward, secretary of the al-Almal (Hope) organization. Some of the detainees said security officials took them to a military facility and beat them, a Human Rights Watch official said.

Concerned that the detentions are part of a broader effort by the Iraqi government to quash dissent, human rights officials have joined with student organizers to decry the incident. On Thursday, student leaders and the parents of some the young men held since May 27 called a news conference in Baghdad to blame the detentions on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has kept firm control over Baghdad’s security forces.

“We have questions to the government, and they are: Where are our sons?” asked Alla Mudher, who has not seen her son Ahmad, since last week. “Who detained them? Why?

Spokesmen for al-Maliki and the Interior Ministry, which oversees Iraq’s national police, were not immediately available for comment. But security officials said earlier in the week that the men have been charged with carrying false identification.

Hanna Mohammed said government officials told her on May 27 that her son, Ali al-Jaff, was arrested for “insulting and libeling the prime minister.” The next day, however, Mohammed said authorities told her the charge was organizing an unauthorized demonstration. This week, she said, officials told her that Jaff was being held for carrying false identification.

Edward said she and family members went to the Ministry of Human Rights on Wednesday to plead for the men’s release. She said they were told the four were in “good health” but that family members would not be allowed to visit them until at least June 11.

At the protest on Friday, several hundred people gathered in Tahrir Square holding photographs of the detained men while chanting “peaceful” and “Maliki free the four.”

The protesters briefly attempted to surge onto the street surrounding square, but were quickly corralled by several dozen soldiers armed with assault weapons and batons nearly as long as their legs. There did not appear to be any arrests or violence.

But in a sign that democratic reforms in Iraq remain tenuous, an Iraqi soldier seized a flyer with photographs of the men from a Washington Post reporter who was trying to enter the square.

“You have no right to hold this slogan,” the soldier said.

Faisal al-Maliki, 60, said he came to the protest demand the release of what he suspects are hundreds of Iraqi citizens being detained for speaking out against the government – a claim that cannot be independently verified.

“Today, we came here to ask, in a peaceful way, without any kind of weapons, to set them free,” al-Maliki said.”There is no stone or rock in our hands, just pictures and we ask the government to set free all of the innocent people. ... There is no implementation of the law for them, they are still in jail.”

Haydir Ali, 25, said the demonstrations in Iraq are not generating the numbers of protesters they have in other Arab countries because “they want to change the regime” while protesters in Iraq are “trying to reform the regime.” But Ali expects even large demonstrations in the coming weeks if arrests and detentions continue.

“The government should be in charge of all people and the constitution said we have the right to practice our speech,” Ali said.

In February, following violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces nationwide that killed at least 23 people, Prime Minister al-Maliki gave his ministers 100 days to improve services. The action helped dampen anti-government protests in many smaller cities, but demonstrations continued in Tahrir Square and in Kurdistan. With the 100-day deadline approaching next week, some fear large protests could resume nationwide as early as June 10.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said the arrests in Tahrir Square appear to be a government intimidation tactic against protest organizers in Baghdad and Kurdistan.

In Kurdistan, where several large demonstrations have pushed for more democratic reforms, an organizer was abducted, stabbed and beaten on May 27, Stork said.

“Authorities in Baghdad and in Iraq-Kurdistan are keeping citizens from demonstrating peacefully,” he said. “Iraq needs to make sure that security forces and pro-government gangs stop targeting protest organizers, activists and journalists.”

National Interest    June 5, 2011

Of Blood, Oil and Kurdistan
Joost R. Hiltermann

As US troops are primed to leave Iraq and the situation in Iraq’s disputed territories remains unresolved, the likelihood of escalating tensions along the so-called trigger line increases. While communication and cooperation between Iraqi army and Kurdish regional guard forces has improved, they continue to face off across this unmarked line of control, which meanders through an elongated territory that is rich in ethnic diversity and, by twist of nature, oil, stretching from the Syrian to the Iranian border. Their tenuous relationship could come unglued when the US presence in their midst changes from military to civilian at the end of this year.

Last month, in the latest reminder of how explosive the situation remains, bombs killed scores in Kirkuk, the city and governorate at the core of the conflict. Kirkuk’s ethnic communities each have contending claims to the area’s status: the Kurds wish to attach it to the adjacent Kurdistan region; the Turkomans would like for it to become a stand-alone region under neither Baghdad’s nor Erbil’s control; and the Arabs mostly favor the status quo—a province directly under Baghdad’s rule. In pressing their claims, demographics—who has the right to live and vote in Kirkuk—have become the principal battleground. Had oil been absent from the equation, the status question would have become a good deal less incendiary; the significance of the area’s ethnic makeup and numbers would largely have faded; and there would have been no need for the deployment of rival security forces.

The US military presence has succeeded in keeping the lid on tensions that never cease to boil just beneath the surface. It is for this reason that Kirkuki politicians of all stripes have called for an extension of the US troop presence in Iraq, but so far the Maliki government has given no indication it is prepared to face the likely political fallout from supporting such a call and negotiating a new status-of-forces agreement. Lacking mutual trust, suspecting each other’s motives, and manipulated by more powerful forces outside Kirkuk, these politicians have been unable to come to a basic agreement even over how to govern the area, regardless of its status. Provincial elections have been postponed indefinitely, while the process envisioned under Art. 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which addresses the disputed territories, has stalled: most property disputes have yet to be settled; the census has suffered repeated delays; and no one is even talking seriously about a status referendum. The only positive development was the appointment last month of a Turkoman as Kirkuk’s provincial council chairman, which removed a dispute between the previous (Kurdish) chairman and the (also Kurdish) governor, while providing greater ethnic diversity at the leadership level.

The situation cries out for international mediation, and the United Nations has indeed put out feelers to determine whether it could play a meaningful role in getting talks started and outlining a roadmap. Yet progress is slow, reflecting the fragility of the ruling coalition in Baghdad and the complexity of the issues involved. Very little is likely to happen before US troops pull out, and all sides are now starting to prepare for that eventuality.

The Kurds have been the first to move, citing security concerns. During the Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, in late 2010, they deployed Asaesh security personnel throughout Kirkuk city, angering Arabs and Turkomans. In February, they sent troops to the city’s southern gateway, violating a security arrangement with their Iraqi and US partners in the so-called combined security mechanism, a system of joint checkpoints and patrols that has served to keep the peace. Kurdish leaders claim they obtained a green light from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but it’s more likely that Maliki, caught flatfooted and worried about widespread demonstrations molded on the Egyptian and Tunisian examples, was in no position to resist the move. Following US pressure, the Kurdish forces withdrew a month later.

The Kurds’ military assertiveness has been widely interpreted as an attempt to probe their adversaries’ resolve. Perhaps they feel heartened by the result, but they would be wrong to interpret Maliki’s passiveness in February as a potential willingness to acquiesce in a Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk once US troops are no longer there to ease the Kurds back out. No Arab leader in Iraq could hope to survive politically if he is seen to surrender Kirkuk to the Kurds, and inversely Kurdish leaders would lose all their credibility if they failed to stand up to an Iraqi army bid to drive the Kurds out of Kirkuk. This means that if the current standoff persists, unilateral moves, by either side, will without doubt trigger armed conflict once the US security blanket is removed.

There is no peaceful alternative to negotiations leading to a sustainable consensus-based compromise on the status of Kirkuk. While this process gets underway, the shadow of the big questions—status, security, demographics, oil—can be reduced if leaders in Baghdad, Erbil, and Kirkuk were to focus on local, pragmatic solutions. Rather than addressing the status question head-on, they should work to improve governance and development, and let results serve to build trust, which could then allow for progress on status. To remove the weight of demographics, the sides should agree that any solution to the status question should be the result of negotiations and not of an ethnically-based referendum. In the absence of a federal hydrocarbons law, Baghdad and Erbil should seek a deal to share both the management and the revenue of the area’s oil wealth. And a local police force needs to be built up as a viable, and ethnically diverse, alternative to the presence of federal military and Kurdish regional guard troops.

By working together to improve people’s daily lives, Kirkuk’s leaders may help the city in recovering something it lost a long time ago but that older generations still recall with evident nostalgia, the pre-1960s notion of ta’ayush, or peaceful ethnic coexistence, and in making it the foundation of a lasting peace.

July 11, 2011

Panetta Presses Iraq for Decision on Troops

BAGHDAD — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here on Monday that the United States military would have an “enduring presence” for many years in the Middle East. He pushed Prime Minister Nuri Kamal-al Maliki to name a defense minister and to let the United States know whether he wanted some American troops to remain in Iraq beyond the end of this year or not.

“I’d like things to move a lot faster here, frankly, in terms of the decision-making process,” Mr. Panetta told a gathering of American troops, expressing exasperation with the Iraqi government. “Do they want us to stay, don’t they want us to stay? Do they want to get a minister of defense or don’t they want to get a minister of defense?” He concluded, “Dammit, make a decision.”

Making his first visit to Iraq as defense secretary, Mr. Panetta also said flatly — before he and a Pentagon spokesman qualified his remarks — that United States forces were in Iraq was because of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That was part of the narrative advanced by former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Bush White House, but it is now widely dismissed.

“The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked, and 3,000 not just Americans, but 3,000 human beings got killed, innocent human beings, because of Al Qaeda,” Mr. Panetta told Army troops at Camp Victory, the sprawling American military base in Baghdad.

Later, Mr. Panetta told reporters that he was not speaking of the reasons for the 2003 American-led invasion but rather was referring to events afterward.

“I wasn’t saying, you know, the invasion, or going into the issues or the justification of that,” Mr. Panetta said. “It was more the fact that we really had to deal with Al Qaeda here.”

In the run-up to the 2003 war, Bush administration officials repeatedly cited ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but a government investigation found no meaningful operational link between the two. After the invasion, Al Qaeda fighters did pour into Iraq to launch attacks on the American military.

Doug Wilson, a Pentagon spokesman traveling with Mr. Panetta, described Mr. Panetta as a “very plain-spoken defense secretary” who he said was not getting into the arguments over Iraq in 2002 and 2003. “I don’t think he’s going down that rabbit hole,” Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Panetta arrived in Iraq on Sunday from Afghanistan, and his visit was not announced in advance. He was scheduled to meet on Monday with Mr. Maliki. Defense officials said that his top priority in the meeting with Mr. Maliki — aside from pressing for a decision about American troops — was to urge him to go after Shiite militias that the United States says are using Iranian-supplied weapons to attack American forces in Iraq.

Mr. Panetta, who warned about the Iranian weapons on Sunday, intensified his words on Monday. Last month, 15 American troops died in Iraq, 9 of them in attacks by rockets supplied by Iran, American officials said, making June the bloodiest month for American combat-related fatalities since June 2008.

“We cannot just simply stand back and allow this to continue to happen,” Mr. Panetta said. “I assure you that this is not something we’re just going to walk away from, we’re going to take this on, straight on.”

Mr. Panetta said that American forces were already responding to the threat “unilaterally,” implying that they were taking offensive action on their own, without Iraqi troops alongside. American military officials would not specify what he meant.

All 46,000 remaining United States troops in Iraq are scheduled to leave by the end of this year under an agreement between the two countries, but both Iraqi and American military commanders believe that some American forces should stay beyond 2011. Few Iraqi politicians are willing to admit publicly that they need American help, but Obama administration officials say the United States will consider staying only if the Iraqis request its help.

The subject is particularly sensitive because the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr helped the current government come to power. Mr. Sadr has said many times that the United States should leave immediately.

Mr. Panetta’s remarks demanding that Mr. Maliki make a decision were the strongest on the subject to date from the Obama administration. American officials say that if the Iraqis wait too long to make a formal request, it will come too late, given the complexity of military withdrawals. Once the Americans withdraw completely, they say, it would be expensive and difficult politically in both the United States and Iraq to bring them back.

Zaid Thaker contributed reporting.


July 13, 2011

Drawdown in Iraq

President Obama is fulfilling his promise to wind down the Iraq war. When he took office, there were about 142,000 American troops on the ground; now there are 46,000. All are supposed to be gone by Dec. 31 under a 2008 agreement between Washington and Baghdad.

The war, which should never have been launched, has already cost more than 4,450 American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars over eight long years. Like most Americans, we are eager to see all of our troops back home and out of harm’s way. But if Iraq requests it, there are legitimate reasons to keep a small military force there — if the mission is carefully drawn. Iraq still needs help building its military and calming tensions between Arabs and Kurds in the north. A small American force — there is talk of 8,000 to 15,000 troops — would also send a big message to Iraq and all of its neighbors that Washington is not ceding the region to Iran. Tehran has been increasing its meddling in recent months.

Experts say most Iraqi factions want the Americans to remain a while longer. No Iraqi politicians have been willing to say that publicly. Their fractious political system indulges foot-dragging well beyond the 11th hour.

The Obama administration, which has demanded an answer for months, is understandably frustrated. “Do they want us to stay, don’t they want us to stay?” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in Baghdad on Monday, adding: “Dammit, make a decision.”

The logistics of withdrawing thousands of troops and their equipment are complicated. But the administration is pleading too hard. This has to be an Iraqi decision, and Iraqis have to live with the consequences.

If Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki or any other leaders really want an extension on the 2008 withdrawal agreement, they need to speak up soon and they need to tell their supporters why this is good for the country. Uniting in common cause is their best hope of neutralizing Moktada al-Sadr, whose pro-Iran faction has long insisted that all American troops must leave.

If a residual American force stays, the mandate should be carefully drawn: gathering intelligence and, when needed, supporting Iraqi forces in going after insurgents; continuing military training; and conducting joint patrols with Arabs and Kurds along the disputed internal border. Iraq’s government must commit to aggressively going after Shiite militias that have increasingly targeted American troops. Any deployment should be reviewed periodically to see if it is needed and still makes sense.

President Obama has concluded the American combat role in Iraq and is beginning the drawdown in Afghanistan. He must be held accountable for his promises but also be prepared to modify his policy when needed. If Iraq asks, we think he should say yes. But only if Iraq asks.    July 27, 2011

U.S. proposal to relocate 3,000 Iranian dissidents rebuffed
By Roy Gutman

BAGHDAD — Warning that the U.S. military soon will stop its regular visits, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq this weekend urged a group of Iranian dissidents stranded in this country since 2003 to dissolve their "paramilitary organization" and become refugees at some other location in Iraq.

Ambassador James Jeffrey said Saturday that the U.S. was working with the United Nations to move the 3,000-plus Iranians "to a place that is a bit safer, a bit further from Iran," but they would have to disband and allow themselves to be registered as refugees by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

But the Paris-based leadership of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran rejected the idea as a "non-starter" and said the Iranians would prefer to die where they now live, a location known as Camp Ashraf, than to relocate in Iraq.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, the official representative abroad of Ashraf, called Jeffrey's proposal for relocation in Iraq "shocking and questionable."

The situation of the dissidents has attracted international attention thanks in part to the group's ability to rally leading former figures in the U.S. national security establishment as well as members of Congress and the European parliament to their cause. It says more than 4,000 parliamentarians, including the majorities of parliaments in 30 nations, back its preferred solution — relocation to a third country.

The U.S. Embassy said Sunday night that relocating the Ashraf residents was an initial step on the way to an eventual resettlement in third countries.

"There are ongoing talks with Ashraf residents aimed at engaging them on a voluntary internal relocation plan that sets the stage for eventual resettlement outside of Iraq," said spokesman David Ranz. "This would both provide for a formal status current lacking for the residents within Iraq pending resettlement as well as resolve UNHCR and Iraqi government's concerns over the current nature of the group."

But no country, starting with the U.S. and the European Union members, in fact is willing to take in members of the MEK — the Farsi language initials of the People's Mujahedeen — beyond those who have citizenship or residence already, U.S. and European diplomats told McClatchy.

For one thing, the State Department has listed the MEK as a terrorist organization since since 1997, citing a series of attacks in Tehran.

Last month, a delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives clashed with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki over an Iraqi army operation in May at Camp Ashraf, which led to the deaths of 35 civilians at the location in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on investigations, told Maliki that his subcommittee was examining whether Iraqi forces under Maliki's command had committed "a crime against humanity" in the killings. Maliki subsequently asked the delegation to leave the country.

Rohrabacher said he wasn't going to urge the U.S. government to take in the MEK members. "I don't think the U.S. should take in everyone who's in a bad situation," he told McClatchy. "We take in more people than every other country combined. I don't think we need to expand that much more."

Other members of the Rohrabacher delegation included Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., the ranking minority member; Republican Reps. Ted Poe of Texas, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of California.

The Ashraf residents had come to Iraq under dictator Saddam Hussein and fought as a paramilitary formation against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, but were stranded here after the U.S. invasion of 2003. American forces had provided protection but gave up that role as Iraq moved to regain full sovereignty over its territory. Maliki has announced that Camp Ashraf will close at the end of this year, and the U.S. says Iraq has every right to take control over its entire territory.

Jeffrey told reporters that he understood the MEK was "chewing over the possibilities" of disbanding and taking on refugee status, but he said the group "really believe that the U.N. and the United States will protect them forever."

He said U.S. troops based in Diyala visit Ashraf "fairly often," either on their own or while providing protection for U.N. officials going to the camp, but they are not able even now to provide protection. Furthermore, U.S. forces "pretty soon" will no longer be based in that part of Diyala province, he said.

Mohaddessin did not respond when asked what are the viable alternatives for the MEK if no third country is willing to receive the vast majority of Ashraf residents. He said relocation within Iraq is tantamount to setting up a "death camp," and that the residents "prefer to die in Ashraf rather than in an unknown location where the Iranian regime and its Iraqi agents will definitely have a more free hand."    July 27, 2011

Kirkuk is a 'land mine' where all sides want U.S. to stay
By Roy Gutman

KIRKUK, Iraq — If civil war were to resume in Iraq, a dread event that could spell the breakup of the world's next great oil power, Kirkuk is the likely epicenter.

It doesn't take much to set ethnic tensions to boil in this oil-rich province of 850,000, also named Kirkuk, which Kurds consider their Jerusalem but which Arabs and Turkomen also claim. An altercation on a street in the city of Kirkuk, a riot in a nearby Arab town and a car bombing shook the peace in the first half of this year, pitting Kurds against Arabs in a manner that Sunni Arab extremists are only too eager to exploit.

"Kirkuk is different from anywhere else in Iraq," said Col. Michael Pappal, the U.S. military commander at Contingency Operating Site Warrior, the American base at Kirkuk airport, soon to be turned over to Iraqi forces. "Does it have the most violence? No. The most lethal violence? No. Is this where the civil war is going to start? There's a potential for that."

Or, as Tahseen Al-Shaikhli, an Iraqi government spokesman, put it: "Kirkuk is like a land mine on a lake of oil."

Nowhere, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, is the argument for keeping American troops in Iraq past Dec. 31 stronger than in Kirkuk.

"We are the glue that brings people together, that facilitates cooperation," said Pappal, a Creekside, Pa., native who's the commander of the U.S. 1st Advise and Assist Task Force of the 1st Infantry Division, some 4,000 troops. "We're also the nuclear control rod that keeps things from going to critical mass. It's the two things together." Remove the control rod, and "you have a reaction that potentially could get out of control."

Iraq's political leaders are struggling with whether to ask the United States to keep some troops in the country after this year, when a status of forces agreement the two countries signed in 2008 dictates that they be gone. The Obama administration has said it would consider such a request, but time is short and the decision is caught up in a logjam of competing Iraqi interests, including the appointment of ministers to run the country's Defense and Interior ministries.

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki appears to favor a continued U.S. presence, but other members of his coalition are opposed, including the anti-American cleric Muqtada al Sadr, whose disarmed Mahdi Army militia until recently appeared poised to attack American troops if they stayed on. U.S. military planners warn that the pace of withdrawal for the last 46,000 Americans is picking up, and they've said they need to know by July 30 what the Iraqis want.

"Nobody will touch the Kirkuk problem for the time being, nor reach within 100 feet of it," said Shaikhli, the government spokesman in Baghdad. "The American troops are the balance of everything there."

That view is widely shared in Kirkuk.

"The Iraqi security forces do not have the ability to secure Iraq's borders, its airspace or its sole seaport in Basra," said Najmeldeen Kereem, the Kurdish governor of the province. The U.S. is needed, he added, "not just for their military role and advice, but for mediation during crises."

Even Sunni Arabs who'd like the U.S. to leave acknowledge the role its troops play in keeping competing sides apart. "Occupation forces are never good for any country. Their presence is not right and I believe that they should go," said Husein Ali Salih, a member of the Kirkuk provincial council. But, he added, "their withdrawal may tip the scales in favor of any side. Who knows which?"

As with most of the American troops still in Iraq, the mission of Pappal's 4,000-strong "Devil Brigade" is training Iraqi police and soldiers to combat violent extremists. But in Kirkuk, its primary role is crisis management.

Kirkuk is plagued with a complicated skein of ethnic rivalries, a legacy of Saddam Hussein's effort to dilute the region's native Kurdish population by relocating tens of thousands of Arabs here from the south. A former key Saddam aide, Izzat al Douri, is directing insurgent forces from Syria, Pappal said. These include Naqshabanda, the military arm of the new Baath Party, which targets mainly foreign forces, and Ansar al Suna, which targets both civilians and foreign military. Both work with the group al Qaida in Iraq and its close cousin, the Islamic State of Iraq, which attack civilians. Their active numbers are relatively small — "hundreds, if that" — but their support base may be in the thousands, Pappal said.

A mix of forces are arrayed against them: police, about 12,000 for the province, who are a mix of Kurds, Turkomen and Arabs; the Kurdish Regional Guards Brigade, thought to be 3,000 to 4,000 troops; and the 12th Iraqi Army Division, which is three-quarters Arab and totals 15,000. To complicate things further, an unofficial Kurdish force known as the Asayish has 300 uniformed police, a much larger number of undercover agents and two lines of organization, one for each of the main Kurdish political parties.

Some times the forces face off against one another, which is where Pappal comes in.

Pappal, who holds up to 10 meetings a week with the different armed groups, as well as the region's Kurdish governor, has had to step in regularly to keep the various sides apart, most recently when a car bomb killed 28 people two months ago in the parking lot of the main provincial police station. The casualties included members of the Asayish, which aspires to be the Kurdish FBI but isn't recognized by the central government.

The commander of the Asayish, which had been targeted by previous bombings, was livid, Pappal recalled. "They were emotional and upset. They blamed it on the IP," he said, meaning the local Iraqi police. They took the attitude " 'We are no longer going to cooperate,' " he said

"I'm not sure exactly what he was going to do, but he was going to do something," Pappal said of Gen. Halo Najat Rashid, the Asayish commander. Pappal spent two hours of hard talk with Halo to persuade him to do nothing for a day. He called political leaders. Then he alerted the governor, who called in all parties to air their anger.

"It was a week's worth of bringing everybody back together," Pappal recalled.

Other incidents in the province this year also required the U.S. to step in to keep peace between competing Kurdish and Arab groups.

When Sunni Arab demonstrators burned the government offices in the predominantly Arab town of Hawija on Feb. 25, the Kurdish Regional Guards Brigade moved south, claiming it was trying to protect the city of Kirkuk from Arab mobs. But the area it moved into was already under the control of the 12th Iraqi Army Division, and a confrontation loomed.

"It raised up all the political tensions of the area," Pappal said. It wasn't until March 31 that the Kurds had fully departed, he said.

On April 25, in the city of Kirkuk, another crisis loomed when Iraqi army troops riding in a pickup got into a "road rage" fight with a man on the street and shot him. Asayish troops, whose headquarters were nearby, responded. Gunfire broke out and three members of the Asayish were killed.

Pappal, who by coincidence was having lunch with two generals at the headquarters, warned them that they had to stop the confrontation from escalating "or I have to go out to stop it." The generals came up with a solution. "They had to," Pappal recalled. "As long as the nuclear (combustion) part is there, you have to be there for the calming," Pappal recounted. "It stops the chain reaction, and you don't necessarily have to take an action."

Being in uniform helps, he said. "The 'third party' up here (the arbitrator) needs to be a respected military force. The most respected military force is the U.S.," he said.

As for civil war, Pappal is confident that even the worst-case confrontation won't lead to civil war — as long as Americans remain in Kirkuk. "Not while we're here," he said. "It won't happen while we're here."


July 30, 2011

They Risked Their Lives

The Iraq war, thankfully, is nearly over for this country. Not so for thousands of Iraqis who have worked with American troops and diplomats since the 2003 invasion as interpreters, drivers and fixers. They have long been targeted by militants. As American troops depart — the last are due to leave the country by the end of December — they are increasingly on their own.

At least 62,000 Iraqis (29,000 who worked for the Americans, and family members) have applications pending to enter the United States, according to the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which represents some of them. Visa approval is taking at least eight months. This country has a moral obligation to act on these cases urgently.

A lumbering application review process has been made even more difficult as the administration has imposed additional security checks on all visa applicants. Iraqis, including those who worked for the Americans, came under greater scrutiny after two Iraqis living in Kentucky were charged with providing arms and money to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The men, arrested in May, were permitted to enter the United States legally in 2008 under the normal refugee program, even though at least one of them was later found to have been an insurgent in Iraq.

The solution is not to admit fewer refugees, as Senator Rand Paul argues. The United States has a responsibility to rigorously screen visa applicants and ensure they are not terrorists. But the process needs to be more transparent and accountable — and it needs to be expedited.

It took a long time for Washington to acknowledge its responsibility to its Iraqi employees, but in 2008 Congress authorized 5,000 special visas annually. Only 3,100 have managed to come here since then, in large part because the security vetting is so cumbersome.

As The Times’s Tim Arango reported, there is now a virtual hold on visas for all Iraqis in the wake of the Kentucky arrests and the new requirements. A senior State Department official recently acknowledged that admittances will drop this year even for Iraqis who are at risk of persecution. Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project officials say they fear that approvals will drop by half, with most rejected — falsely — as security risks.

Washington has a responsibility to help resettle Iraqis driven from their homes, and in many cases their country, by the war. There are still an estimated four million displaced Iraqis, about half in Iraq and the rest in Syria, Jordan and other countries. Baghdad and the international community also must do more to help them return to Iraq or build stable lives in other countries.

We endorse a call by Senator Patrick Leahy and six of his colleagues for the administration to quickly develop a plan to resettle United States-affiliated Iraqis who are at risk as the troops withdraw. No group deserves more urgent attention and help than the Iraqis who put themselves in danger on America’s behalf.

Gulf News    July 31, 2011

Baghdad needs to keep the peace in Kirkuk
Violence in the flashpoint city could destroy Iraq's present governing coalition

It will be a high-level gamble for the Iraqi government to deploy its new multi-ethnic security force, the Golden Lions, in Kirkuk when the American forces withdraw. The dramatically named force will face a major challenge if ever the security situation in the city disintegrates. Kirkuk is the flashpoint for Iraq's future, where the simmering tension between the Sunnis and Shiite-backed Baghdad government will come up against the determination of the Kurds to manage their own autonomous territory in the north of Iraq.

The Kurds' desire to bring Kirkuk into their provinces is not just about controlling territory or numbers of people, but about controlling the valuable oil reserves buried below Kirkuk. A major factor for the future success of any Iraqi (or Kurdish) government is that it will control the huge oil revenues, and be able to spend the money so as to attract support from Iraq's many warring militias and ethnic and religious groups.

Kirkuk is ethnically split between Kurds and Arabs, and in the last general election the Kurds took about half the seats in the city. The vital Kurdish participation in the current ruling coalition in Baghdad means that the Kurds do not expect this government to take Kirkuk away from them, but organised Sunni Arab immigration into Kirkuk has boosted the Sunni Arab population, and reduced the Kurdish proportion.

The issue has been so sensitive that there has been no provincial election since 2005, when an Arab boycott gave the Kurds a disproportionately high number of seats. If the Kurdish provinces were normal parts of mainstream Iraq, the status of Kirkuk would not be so sensitive. But given the Kurds' autonomous status, violence in Kirkuk could be the issue that rips the present coalition apart.

Reuters    Jul 31 2011

Kurds serve warning as U.S. withdrawal nears
By Jim Loney

KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) - When Iraq's northern Kurdish region sent a division of troops to surround Kirkuk in February, it may have been a signal of the delicate balancing act to come when U.S. forces leave the disputed oil city.

Officially, the 10,000 or so peshmerga fighters were there to protect Kirkukis from any violence associated with nationwide protests. But their presence sparked a furious diplomatic offensive by the United States to calm tensions between the central government in Baghdad and Arbil, the Kurdish capital.

The deployment may have been a trial balloon, analysts said, to test Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and to warn Baghdad and Washington that U.S. troops are needed as a buffer in the disputed northern territories claimed by both capitals. "The Kurdish military maneuver in Kirkuk in February was both a message to the U.S. to keep its troops on the ground beyond 2011 - which is a Kurdish interest - and a way of testing the resolve of the Baghdad government," said Joost Hiltermann, an analyst with International Crisis Group.

It took a month to persuade semi-autonomous Kurdistan, comprised of three northern provinces, to withdraw the unit.

"It was a lot of diplomacy in saying 'look this isn't right. It's upsetting the area. It doesn't lead to stability,'" said Colonel Michael Pappal, commander of the U.S. Devil Brigade in Kirkuk. "It showed to me that a third party was necessary for that to happen."

Eight years after the United States ousted Saddam Hussein, Iraq is still building its police and army to battle a lethal Sunni Islamist insurgency and Shi'ite militias within, as well as defending against external threats.

As violence ebbs, Kirkuk and other disputed northern areas are considered potential flashpoints for future conflict in a country hobbled by ethnic, religious and political strife.

The late February incursion was no spur-of-the-moment decision and prompted a quick response from the Americans, who told Kurdish commanders their soldiers would not be allowed into Kirkuk, U.S. military officials said. "You don't send a division across a border without a lot of planning and preparation ... it takes a while to put an army on the road and that's what they did," said Lieutenant Colonel Joe Holland, a U.S. commander in Kirkuk.

The unit was 12,000 strong, a Kurdish official told Reuters, while the U.S. military estimated it at 8,000-9,000. Sources said the Kurds had AK-47s, artillery and armored vehicles.

Holland said it was the third time in 20 years the Kurds had moved into the Kirkuk area; the first in 1991 after the invasion of Kuwait and the second in 2003 when Saddam was ousted.

Maliki's government demanded the peshmerga withdraw and the Kurdistan Regional Government at first refused, escalating tensions. Iraqi and Kurdish troops have come close to blows in the past two years as Baghdad tightened its grip on Kirkuk.

Iraqi officials said the incursion was illegal. Officially, the city -- which by some estimates sits atop 4 percent of the world's oil reserves -- is secured by central government forces. "The effect was a significant schism in the relationship between us and the Kurds," Holland said.

Kirkuk has suffered huge population upheavals in recent decades, from Saddam's "Arabization" campaigns to more recent moves by Kurds to reclaim parts of the city. "They were sending a message to the central government, saying 'we can enter Kirkuk any time and you cannot stop us,'" a senior Iraqi Defense Ministry official told Reuters.

The official said the KRG would not invade Kirkuk after the U.S. leaves but would seek to displace Arabs. He said the Kurd population had soared from 150,000 to 350,000 since 2003.

The peshmerga, however, represent a formidable challenge to the Iraqi army. The Kurds have 100,000 troops, better weaponry and experienced leaders, the official said. "After 2003, they captured the former Iraqi army tanks. About 4,000 tanks left by the former Iraqi army in the streets and cities disappeared, and our investigations indicate that the Kurds have most of them and Iran got the rest," he said.

The peshmerga deployment served notice that without the neutral buffer of U.S. forces, the Kurdish region might "feel compelled to use military muscle to defend its interests," said Wayne White, an analyst with the Middle East Institute. "So, while a signal that the KRG will not tolerate any perceived trampling of its interests in Kirkuk, this deployment also was meant as a reminder to both Washington and Baghdad that greater consideration should be given to the prolongation of a more meaningful U.S. presence," he said.

But because Maliki, perhaps calculating that the Americans would pressure their Kurdish allies to withdraw, did not offer a serious challenge, the deployment was not an effective trial run for securing Kurdish control of Kirkuk, Hiltermann said. "This will have to wait till the time when U.S. troops will no longer be there," he said. "At that point, all bets are off and tensions could easily escalate, intentionally or inadvertently, to a bigger conflict, at least as long as the dispute between Baghdad and Arbil remains unsettled."

(Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Editing by Jon Hemming)

August 15, 2011

The Phantom Menace

THREE years ago this month, Russia and Georgia fought a brief and brutal war over an obscure slice of mountainous land called South Ossetia that had declared its independence from Georgia. Flouting international law, Russia stepped in to defend South Ossetia and later formally recognized the secessionists as a legitimate government. Hundreds died and thousands of refugees fled the disputed region.

The 2008 war demonstrated the explosive potential created by the presence of phantom states: places that field military forces, hold elections, build local economies and educate children, yet inhabit the foggy netherworld between de facto existence and international legitimacy.

With under 30,000 people, South Ossetia is one of the smallest of these oddities of international politics. Its fellow breakaway republic, Abkhazia, has approximately 150,000. Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria are two others in the former Soviet Union. To the south are the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and the self-functioning territory of Somaliland. A half dozen other patches of land could be added to the mix; together, they are home to approximately 40 million people.

Phantom states stoke wars, foster crime, and make weak states even weaker. Nagorno-Karabakh is lauded by Armenia and loathed by Azerbaijan, leading all sides to stockpile arms in case of renewed violence. The unsettled status of Northern Cyprus weakens the economic prospects of all Cypriots and strains relations between the European Union and Turkey, Northern Cyprus’s chief supporter. And although Somaliland has been an island of effective governance in anarchic Somalia, its unrecognized status has discouraged aid and investment.

Phantom countries frequently emerge from wars, and are sustained by the threat of further fighting. In Gaza, Hamas has waged an off-and-on war with Israel even as it has cracked down on local crime and picked up the trash.

Leaders of phantom states champion the right to national self-determination while the countries from which they seek independence stress the need for stable borders. Stuck between these incompatible principles, phantom governments tend to point out uncomfortable precedents and double standards and latch on to foreign patrons. Indeed, most phantoms survive in part because of external support. Moscow is the power broker in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, while Armenia holds sway over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Taiwan shows one way out of this conundrum; despite existing in a state of legal uncertainty, it has thrived. From 1949 to 1971 the Nationalist government in Taiwan held China’s seat at the United Nations and was recognized by most world governments. Since the 1970s, however, no major power has formally recognized Taiwan and it remains a source of tension between the United States and China. Yet, in the past four decades, Taiwan has become an economic powerhouse, a model of democratic transition from authoritarian rule and a responsible member of the international community — all without a seat at the United Nations.

The key was engagement. Taiwan’s economic and strategic importance pushed the United States, China and other great powers to tiptoe around — and sometimes even embrace — its unsettled legal status. Legitimate but unrecognized, a real country but not independent, Taiwan has demonstrated the positive power of creative ambiguity.

A similar approach could work elsewhere. Phantom governments are often corrupt, run by warlords and plagued by drug trafficking and other illicit trade. But transparent government, free elections and a peaceful foreign policy are as vital for phantom states as they are for real ones. If phantom governments behave well, they should be offered a path toward legitimacy by the world’s major powers. Economic and political reforms can proceed parallel to, and even bolster, discussions over sovereignty.

By insisting on territorial integrity, the United States and other countries forgo the chance to turn phantom states into responsible players. So long as phantoms are denounced as separatists or outposts of illicit commerce, the international community has little opportunity to hold their leaders accountable. And treating them as mere eccentricities means that phantom states have little reason to care about the international order.

Even when a phantom state becomes a genuine state, the problems don’t necessarily end. Eritrea, which seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after years of war, is a warning. It has since fallen into tyranny, fought a border war with Ethiopia in which many thousands died, and supported the brutal Shabab militia in Somalia. Although Eritrea is independent, it remains a source of instability.

To avoid another Eritrea, the international community should push phantoms to reform rather than focusing exclusively on seeking statehood. Otherwise, millions of the world’s citizens will linger in legal and political limbo — rebels with a cause and soldiers with a ready-made grievance — while their neighborhoods remain at risk of war.

Daniel L. Byman is research director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Charles King is the author of “Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams.” They are professors at Georgetown University.

MESOP    26 Sep 2011

Will America leave Kurdistan?
By Michael Rubin

When President Obama took the podium at the United Nations General Assembly, most eyes focused on what he would say about the Palestinians’ bid for statehood. But Obama’s comments on America’s future relationship with Iraq were perhaps as important. “At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over,” Obama declared, continuing, “We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq — for its government and for its security forces, for its people and for their aspirations.”
While debate has continued in recent months in Washington and Baghdad about the wisdom and need for U.S. forces to remain in Iraq, Obama’s statement appears to end the debate. Presidents seldom write their own speeches, but rather rely on professional speechwriters who collect inputs from and sometimes circulate drafts past other senior advisors in order to ensure that the speech conforms to policy intent. Wording is not arbitrary, and so Obama seems to have left no room open for an American base in Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has lobbied quietly but persistently for the United States to establish a permanent base in Kurdistan. At a press conference in Erbil on June 22, 2007, Iraqi President and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan head Jalal Talabani said an American base would “on one hand protect Kurdistan from external threats, and on the other hand not allow terrorists to destabilize a safe area.” Kurdistan Region President Masud Barzani followed suit the following year, declaring, “If the US asks to keep their troops in Kurdistan, I think the parliament, the people and government of Kurdistan will welcome this warmly.”

While the Iranian government objects to the possibility of an American presence in Kurdistan and Kurdish officials such as Nazem Dabbaq, the PUK representative in Tehran, try to assure the Iranian government that there are no negotiations underway, it is precisely because Kurdish officials fear their neighbors’ ambitions that they want American forces to stay.  The peshmerga may be better trained and better equipped than at any point in its existence but, behind nationalist bluster, even peshmerga officials acknowledge they still pale in quantity of men and quality of training and equipment to the reconstituted Iraqi army and the countries surrounding Iraqi Kurdistan.

Bases also inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy, provide a host of well-paying service industry jobs. A stable region like Kurdistan can also amplify benefits as Americans able to leave the base can patronize restaurants and take advantage of other local facilities.The United States certainly should have a strategic interest in maintaining a permanent presence in either Iraq and/or its Kurdish federal region. While Iran continues to pose a strategic challenge to the United States, Obama advisors and their proxies in Washington quietly acknowledge what they will not say publicly: The United States is not prepared to confront a nuclear Iran and will instead rely on containment and deterrence to counter the challenge.

Containment, however, requires prepositioning of equipment, trip lines, and perhaps even regional basing. While the United States maintains bases in Qatar and Kuwait, and a base in all but name in Bahrain, and a base in Turkey, there are major gaps in its ability to contain Iran. The American presence in the Caspian region is limited, and it is improbable that Afghanistan will allow permanent American bases so long as Afghans believe that the Pakistani and perhaps even Chinese interest in Afghanistan will be of longer duration.

Nevertheless, the apparent decision to forego basing is more a blow to Iraqi Kurdistan than it is to the United States, and should be cause for reflection in Erbil. The American posture in the region is clearly in flux: Uzbekistan expelled Americans from the Karshi-Khanabad airbase is 2005, and Kyrgyzstan may do likewise in the next few years. Behind the thin veneer of diplomatic nicety, the United States does not trust Turkey. Not only do American strategists question Turkey’s orientation but, from a much more practical standpoint, during lease negotiations, Turkey seeks to extract too high a price for the American presence even demanding, for example, the right to veto missions flown from the facilities. Against the loss or the potential loss of these facilities, the Americans need further bases in the region, if for no other reason than to maintain the same logistical capabilities.

Given how the United States and Kurdistan should have a mutual interest in an American military base, Kurds and Kurdish officials should ask why Washington passed over Kurdistan. Here Romania is instructive. Like their Kurdish counterparts, the Romanian government actively courted American forces in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. While Kurdish authorities and the international media gave high profile coverage to the entry of American forces into Kurdistan—most famously with the parachute entrance of the 173rd Airborne Division, the Romanian government quietly allowed its Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Black Sea town of Constan?a to be the staging ground for around 7,000 troops heading into Iraq.

The Romanians, however, have outshone Kurdistan in many ways. Romania may be near the bottom of the barrel in terms of press freedom by European Union standards, but it still outshines Iraqi Kurdistan, where unresolved attacks on journalists sully the region’s reputation internationally.  Corruption remains a major problem in both Iraqi Kurdistan and Romania, but the Romanian government—pressured by the European Union—has undertaken serious measures to combat graft, whereas in Kurdistan, it is the government which is the problem. Romanian officials do not buy ostentatious villas in Washington, DC.

The issue is not only one of good governance, however, but, from an American point of view, security. Too many Kurdish officials have shown willingness to betray confidential data to Iranians for money. While Kurdish officials often express gratitude to the American government for Iraq’s liberation, such statements are undercut by KRG statements about American politics in Washington. At one point, the KRG office in Washington used its listserv to endorse conspiracies about alleged Bush administration lies to force the war in Iraq, an action which raised questions about Kurdish reliability.

A permanent American presence in Iraqi Kurdistan should have been a win-win proposition for Americans and Iraqi Kurdistan. While Iraqi Kurdistan is a land replete with super-rich and desperately poor, a base would have helped bolster the middle class which Kurdish authorities have done too little to protect.  An American base would also have provided a tripwire which would make Turkish and Iranian forces think twice about violating the Kurdistan Region’s borders and those of Iraq. A base in Kurdistan would have also made the Pentagon less reliant on a hostile Turkey, something which would be welcome by most Kurds. Alas, sometimes corruption and poor leadership has a cost.

The Daily Star (Beirut)    August 12, 2011 12:47 AM

Spring comes, but not for Iraq’s Kurds
By Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi

Amid widespread protests during this so-called “Arab Spring,” one place that has received relatively little media coverage is Iraqi Kurdistan. How does the response of the Kurdish authorities to discontent there, a region long held up by foreign observers as a freer political exception in Iraq, compare with that of other governments in the Middle East?

The grievances of the protesters, who first came out in mid-February to hold rallies in the autonomous region’s economic hub of Sulaimaniyah, are varied, but in many ways they are similar to those of activists still taking part in gatherings in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. There have been complaints of corruption, unemployment, poor public services (despite the generally higher living standard compared to the rest of Iraq), and the monopolization of power by the ruling coalition of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. These two parties have dominated the Kurdistan Regional Government since Iraqi Kurdistan gained autonomy after the Gulf war of 1991.

When protests began in Saray Square in Sulaimaniyah, the Kurdish security forces opened fire to disperse the crowds, leading to the death of a 15-year old boy and leaving 50 injured. This confrontation intensified the anger of the protesters, who demanded an apology from the KRG for allowing the firing on demonstrators.

At the same time, supporters of the KRG president, Massoud Barzani, attacked offices of the main opposition bloc, Goran (the Change List), in Irbil, the regional capital, as well as in Dohuk and other towns. The wave of protests spread to these towns toward the end of that month. Goran’s KNN television station was banned from broadcasting.

By mid-March, the ruling coalition began to feel pressure from the increasing restlessness of the protesters. Amid calls by the opposition for early elections and a boycott of the KRG, the coalition publicly promised reform and a desire to listen to the protest movement’s grievances. Barzani affirmed that he would issue a seven-point reform program and promised early elections and legal action against members of the security forces who had shot at protesters.

However, one month later, the KRG authorities had grown tired of the ongoing protests. They ordered the security forces, anti-riot police, and Peshmerga militiamen to enter Saray Square and clear out the demonstrators, some of whom had spent 60 days at the site. The Governorate of Sulaimaniyah prohibited “unlicensed demonstrations” and the KRG cut the budgets of all opposition parties, accusing the opposition, on the basis of flimsy evidence, of conspiring with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to incite the protests.

Thus, by the beginning of May, the protests were finished, stamped out by authoritarian measures not so very unlike those of other governments in the Middle East and North Africa. Some observers who had upheld Iraqi Kurdistan as a model for a more liberal-democratic government in Iraq expressed to me their disappointment over how the KRG had failed to live up to the consensus image of Iraqi Kurdistan as a “different” sort of Iraq. They hoped that the behavior of the KRG was only an aberration.

Sadly, the evidence suggests otherwise. The proposed reforms by the KRG have not actually been implemented, and in May the opposition parties were reduced to holding meaningless power-sharing talks with the KRG. After four rounds of dialogue, and despite a recent speech by the French Consul in Irbil that highlighted the need for radical reform in the governing system, negotiations have now broken down because of the obstinacy of the KDP and the PUK. In the absence of outside pressure, the Kurdish authorities have felt no need to undertake reform beyond minor shifts and rotations in administrative positions.

In addition, over the past month, human rights groups such as Amnesty International have raised concerns over attacks against lawyers who have campaigned on behalf of those protesters who were killed or injured in the unrest. In a similar vein, Reporters Without Borders has documented incidents of attacks by police officers and members of the security forces against journalists and cameramen who attempted to cover efforts to revive the protests in Sulaimaniyah.

These efforts began on July 14 when a Facebook group called for a fresh round of demonstrations beginning the following day. But the planned gatherings were pre-emptively suppressed. As Joel Wing of the blog Musings on Iraq notes, the security forces were deployed at checkpoints all around Sulaimaniyah, with a particular focus on Saray Square. Ten activists were arrested before protests could commence.

Ultimately, moving Iraqi Kurdistan in a more liberal and democratic direction depends on the willpower of the KRG ruling coalition to listen to the legitimate complaints and demands of the wider Kurdish population and opposition. However, more attention is desperately needed from both international media and foreign governments to push the Kurdish leadership to embrace reform.

After all, the portrayal of Iraqi Kurdistan as the “other Iraq” has largely been cultivated by prominent outlets such as The New York Times and the BBC; and yet both have given the KRG a free pass during the current political and civil turmoil. Likewise, Western governments in particular need to look at developments inside Iraqi Kurdistan, and look beyond their economic and strategic interests. To this end, the speech by the French consul in Irbil was a welcome, if still incomplete, start.

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi is a student at Oxford University and an intern at the Middle East Forum. His website is He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

The Daily Star (Beirut)      September 20, 2011 01:31 AM

Iraq’s politicians hover above the law
By Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi

The decision of Wikileaks to publish in unredacted form some 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables has deservedly attracted condemnation for compromising the safety of many of those individuals named in the files. However, a great deal that is useful can be garnered from the information disclosed. A substantial amount of the documents involve Iraq, and illustrate how Iraqi politicians have consistently held themselves above the law and basic standards of accountability.

One notable case that has come to light from these cables involves the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. On April 3, 2003, as Saddam Hussein’s regime was on the point of falling, the moderate and non-sectarian Shiite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, who had been in exile in the United Kingdom, returned to his home city of Najaf. Just one week later, Khoei was beaten and hacked to death by a mob. According to witnesses, he was first dragged to Sadr’s office and then to a nearby roundabout where he was killed.

Although Sadr denies accusations of involvement in the atrocity, a senior Iraqi judge, Raed al-Juhi, issued an arrest warrant against him in April 2004, on suspicion of ordering Khoei’s murder. One can of course ask why Sadr does not simply go to court if he is so confident of his innocence. In fact, there is a plausible motive for his role in the murder. As Hayder al-Khoei, Abdul Majid’s son and a researcher at the Centre for Academic Shi’a Studies in the United Kingdom, has pointed out, Sadr and his followers, whom Hayder’s father opposed, wanted to assert themselves as a political force in post-Saddam Iraq.

Today, it can be more easily understood why Sadr is not held to account over the arrest warrant. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki depends on the Sadrists as allies, along with the Kurdish factions, to maintain his coalition government in place. However, until the release of the diplomatic cables it remained unclear why the arrest warrant was not enforced during the tenure of the non-sectarian Iyad Allawi. He was interim prime minister before Iraq’s elections of 2005.

It turns out, as a cable from July 2004 shows, that leading Shiite politicians, including senior members of Al-Daawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, asked Allawi to suspend the arrest warrant and legal case against Sadr until the elections were completed. In return, Sadr would evacuate militiamen of his Mahdi Army from Kufa and Najaf. Allawi was initially skeptical but eventually caved in, although Sadr never kept his end of the bargain.

The petition was ultimately a ploy that Shiite politicians with sectarian agenda used to allow Sadr to avoid the arrest warrant. The knew that the Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, would secure a majority of seats in parliament thanks to the Sunni Arab boycott of the elections. This led to the election of the Shiite Islamist Ibrahim Jaafari as prime minister, until he was ousted in 2006 in favor of Maliki.

During the sectarian civil conflict that was centered on Baghdad in 2006, Maliki actively protected the Mehdi Army in its fight against the Sunni insurgents, and in its successful ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from mixed neighborhoods. This development ultimately convinced most Sunni Arabs in 2007 that they could no longer fight both the government and the American-led coalition forces. This realization led to a rapid decline in violence, which was not, as conventional wisdom has it, the result of an increase in U.S. troops as part of the surge.

Nonetheless, reckless disregard for the rule of law does not solely afflict Shiite parties. It extends very clearly to the Sunni side as well. In September 2004, Mithal al-Alusi, a secular Sunni politician and businessman, visited Israel. Incensed by the trip, Asad al-Hashimi, a Sunni who went on to become culture minister, was behind an assassination attempt on Alusi in February 2005, in which the latter lost his two sons. In June 2007, an arrest warrant was issued against Hashimi. When police raided his home, Sunni politicians asked the Shiite-dominated government to drop the case against him. The Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, to which Hashimi belonged, suspended its participation in the government, but Maliki did not drop the case. Sentenced to death in absentia, Hashimi fled Iraq.

Highlighting the problems, there is ongoing deadlock in a debate between Iraq’s Integrity Commission, an independent commission set up to investigate corruption, and Maliki on prosecuting officials suspected of using fake qualifications to obtain government jobs. The prime minister wants lower-rank officials to be exempt from prosecution, while the commission affirms, rightly, its desire to prosecute suspects at all levels. One reason Maliki has pushed for a compromise is because his Al-Daawa party is no less guilty than others of using forged papers. At present, 37 officials in the prime minister’s office are thought to have used fake diplomas to gain their positions.

As a direct consequence of Maliki’s obstinacy and other forms of political interference in the anti-corruption agency’s work, the head of the Integrity Commission, Rahim Hassan al-Uqailei, has resigned.

Sadly, all this confirms the upshot of Freedom House’s assessment of Iraq as a country that is “not free,” where genuine electoral democracy is absent. True, generally free and fair elections have been conducted at the provincial and national levels, but sectarianism, corruption, excessive bureaucracy, and lack of respect for the rule of law all impede democratic decision-making.

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and an intern at the Middle East Forum. His website is, and he can be reached by email at The author would like to thank Hayder al-Khoei for drawing to his attention the June 2004 Wikileaks cable. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

The Daily Star (Beirut)      October 7, 2011   12:48 AM

No, Syria won’t plunge Iraq into war
by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

The Iraqi government recently reversed its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad amid the ongoing unrest in Syria, and is now calling on Assad to step down. However, it is true that many Iraqi Shiites deeply fear the possible consequences of an overthrow of the Alawite-dominated regime in Damascus. Specifically, the Shiites’ concern is that hard-line Sunnis might come to power next door and embolden Iraqi Sunnis, reigniting sectarian violence and civil war in Iraq. As one anonymous, senior Iraqi Shiite politician put it to Reuters: “Change in Syria will cause major problems for Iraq. They [Sunnis] will incite the western [Sunni] part of Iraq.” However, are these anxieties justified?

In a word: No. To understand why, it is necessary to examine the question of what was primarily responsible for the dramatic drop in violence in Iraq from 2007 onward. The prevailing orthodoxy affirms that the increase in the number of U.S. troops and the introduction of a counter-insurgency strategy as part of the “surge” were the key factors behind the weakening of Al-Qaeda and the Sunni turn against the militant group. However, such reasoning imputes too much game-changing power to the American military and belittles the importance of local Iraqi actors and factors. In fact, Sunni insurgents began to turn against hard-line militants because by late 2006 they had realized that they were losing the sectarian civil war in and around Baghdad against Shiite militias. At the time these were protected by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It is a truism that a key reason for the swelling of the ranks of the Sunni insurgency after 2003 was the de facto transformation of the de-Baathification process into a “de-Sunnification” process. This was most flagrant in the disbanding of the old, Sunni-dominated Iraqi military by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. In hindsight, it is easy to point the finger solely at Bremer for this grave mistake. Yet as The Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn has noted, Bremer was backed and encouraged in his decision by Shiite and Kurdish politicians who were eager to fill the ranks of the new Iraqi security forces with their own militiamen.

Nevertheless, de-Sunnification alone cannot account for the manner in which the Sunni insurgency gained recruits and strength. In any war, no side commences hostilities if it does not feel that there is a good chance of defeating the enemy. In this case, a key premise behind the insurgency was that the Sunnis were in the majority and could thus either subdue or wipe out Shiites in a sectarian civil war. The “Sunni-majority” delusion was well illustrated prior to the invasion, when Sunni Arabs frequently accused outside demographers of under-representing their numbers. Those accusations were not mere rhetoric. The propagation of this false perception among Sunnis was partly the result of propaganda put out by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and partly the consequence of a sense of disconnect from the majority Shiite population, created by 70 years of Sunni minority rule.

Having launched repeated attacks on the Shiites, causing large numbers of casualties, the Sunni insurgency was able to provoke the Shiite militias into retaliation. This gave rise to a full-blown sectarian civil war in 2006 centered on Baghdad. The main aim of both sides was to seize control of the mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods in the capital and cleanse them of the rival sect. Owing to numerical advantage and backing from the central government, the Shiite militias largely succeeded in clearing the mixed neighborhoods of Sunnis. This forced the Sunni insurgents to retreat into the few remaining Sunni-majority strongholds of the city, such as Yarmuk, or flee the country to Jordan and Syria. In the latter two countries, Nir Rosen, an investigative journalist and reporter, interviewed numerous Sunni insurgent leaders who admitted that they had lost the battle against the Shiite militias in Baghdad.Hence, the sectarian civil war subsided throughout 2007 and 2008 for the same reason wars generally end: namely, one side had mostly lost its will to fight. Fearing further losses at the hands of the Shiite militias and the central government, large numbers of Sunnis realized, at around the time the surge began, that the only feasible option was to cooperate with coalition troops and Iraqi security forces against the likes of Al-Qaeda. This led to the rapid strengthening of the Anbar Awakening and the birth of the Sons of Iraq movement.

Maliki would go on to reel in the Shiite militias, such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The prime minister realized that the remaining Sunni insurgency posed no existential threat to his government, opening the way for him to consolidate his power base by cracking down on Shiite militants based in the south and around Baghdad. The risk of another sectarian civil war in Iraq on account of turmoil in Syria is very low indeed. Having witnessed the disastrous outcome for Sunnis of the sectarian civil war in 2006, the Sunni Arabs of Iraq generally appreciate that they cannot afford to take on Shiites in another conflict. For most of those in the community, the concern is not to return to minority rule. It is to survive and adapt to the reality that Iraq’s Shiite majority is leading the country’s political process.

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and an intern at the Middle East Forum.

Today's Zaman    30 October 2011

Neutrality no option in anti-PKK fight, Turkey tells Iraqi Kurds

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu has urged the Iraqi Kurds to cooperate with Turkey in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), saying that otherwise Turkey will have every right to enter Iraqi territory to prevent PKK attacks on Turkish targets.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu (R) walks with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi before their talks in Ankara on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (Photo: AA)

“Turkey cannot let an entity that constitutes a clear and direct threat to itself exist right across its borders,” Davuto?lu said in a televised interview on Saturday. “The northern Iraqi administration should stop this terrorist entity and cooperate with us. Otherwise, we will enter [Iraq] and stop it. This is our right that stems from international law.”

The Turkish military launched a cross-border offensive after a deadly PKK attack on Oct. 19, when 24 soldiers were killed in the province of Hakkari, which borders Iraq. The PKK has bases in Kurdish-run northern Iraq and uses them as a springboard for attacks on Turkey.

Davuto?lu said it was time for everyone to clarify their stance vis-à-vis terrorism. “We have made numerous warnings and heard many promises -- both by the central Iraqi government and the regional government in northern Iraq. Now, our message is clear: Everybody should come up with a clear stance. Neutrality is not acceptable in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Nechirvan Barzani, a senior Iraqi Kurdish official, rushed to Ankara after the Oct. 19 attack to express solidarity. Massoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdish administration, is also expected to visit Ankara soon to discuss anti-PKK cooperation.

Asked whether Massoud Barzani's anti-terror stance was clear enough, Davuto?lu said there have been positive developments regarding the Kurdish administration's stance over the past years. “The immediate condemnation of the attack, the visit [by Nechirvan Barzani] in the wake of the attack and the expression of readiness to act together with Turkey are all positive developments,” Davuto?lu said.

Asked if the Kurdish administration was ready for military cooperation as well, Davuto?lu said, “Of course, the military aspect is essential in the fight against terrorism.”

Speaking after talks with Nechirvan Barzani, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said that Turkey is seeking cooperation with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in its fight against the PKK along the border with northern Iraq.

Davuto?lu did not rule out the creation of a buffer zone or a military base inside northern Iraq, saying that “all measures will be taken” to eliminate the PKK presence. The foreign minister said the Iraqi Kurdish administration has supported Turkish measures against the PKK.
Hashemi supports Turkish operations in Iraq

Iraq's Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who had talks with Erdo?an and Davuto?lu on Friday, also supported Turkish military operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, saying the Turkish counterterrorism measures were “legitimate.”

“It is obvious that the PKK carries out attacks on Turkey from Iraqi soil. Turkey can of course launch operations in Iraqi territory,” Hashemi told state broadcaster TRT in an interview. He underlined, however, that any cross-border offensive should take place when “necessary,” be concluded when its mission is accomplished and be coordinated with the Iraqi side.

Hashemi said Prime Minister Erdo?an was “very determined” to finish off the PKK this time.

The Iraqi vice president also underlined that Iraq was not involved in the PKK issue, since PKK members were citizens of Turkey, and said political measures would be as important as military ones in countering terrorism. He particularly pointed out that Turkey's efforts to draft a new constitution could help solve the issue if the new constitution contains reforms that would invalidate the PKK's cause.

But the Iraqi vice president avoided any commitment to fight the PKK militarily, saying the Iraqi government still has no troops to secure its borders. “But we will be able to have border troops in the future and when we have that, we will better protect our southern and northern borders,” he said.

Asked whether a joint Turkish-Iraqi operation against the PKK was possible, Hashemi was again non-committal, saying that existing agreements between Turkey and Iraq do not provide the legal ground for such operations. “New agreements should be signed,” he said.

April 21, 2012

In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity

Kurds in northern Diyala Province have faced a campaign of terror. In Jalawla, a Kurdish official’s home was bombed. Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times

KHANAQIN, Iraq — In January, the dismembered body of Wisam Jumai, a Kurdish intelligence officer, was discovered in a field in Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq. Soon his family and friends, one after another, received text messages offering a choice: leave or be killed.

“Wisam has been killed,” read one message sent to a cousin. “Wait for your turn. If you want your life, leave Sadiyah.”

After Mr. Jumai’s killing, nearly three dozen Kurdish families fled their homes and moved here, according to local officials, to the sanctuary of a city that is claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have come here after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein’s policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs.

Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq’s Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military’s withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semiautonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Baghdad.

The schism, which is most immediately over sharing oil wealth but is more deeply about historical grievances and Kurdish aspirations for independence, raises serious questions about the future of a unified Iraq. The crisis, American officials say, is far more grave than the political tensions between the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the country’s Sunni Arab minority set off by an arrest warrant on terrorism charges issued in December for Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president.

The Kurds, unlike the Sunnis, have their own security forces, oil reserves, ports of entry and even their own de facto foreign policy, with envoys operating in other countries. This could eventually lead them to seek more independence from Baghdad.

“Fearing a resurgence of a strong central state, Kurdish leaders want to leave Iraq, and they appear to believe their moment to do so may soon arrive,” wrote Joost Hiltermann, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, in a recent report.

In the latest chapter of a long-simmering dispute, Kurdish authorities have shut off their oil exports, claiming that Baghdad is behind on payments to oil companies working in the Kurdish region. Officials in Baghdad, angered by this and by Kurdistan’s oil deal with Exxon Mobil that bypasses the central government, in turn threatened to cut off billions of dollars that flow to Kurdistan from the Iraqi budget. Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government, has called Mr. Maliki a dictator and expressed fears that Baghdad might use American-supplied F-16 warplanes against the Kurds. Both sides have accused the other of smuggling oil and siphoning off profits.

“I cannot respect myself, working with the people in Baghdad,” said Mohammed Ihsan, the Kurdish government’s representative in Baghdad, who is calling for a referendum in Kurdistan on independence, something he acknowledged was unfeasible in the short term because of Western opposition. “But a lot of people are thinking that way,” he said.

American officials are concerned that Kurdish leaders are considering seeking a deal to sell oil to Turkey, in an effort to become economically self-sufficient. Such a pact would probably be illegal and unlikely before 2014, when Kurdistan is expected to complete its own oil pipeline.

“The Kurds hope, however, that Turkey’s thirst for oil and gas will align with their own thirst for statehood,” Mr. Hiltermann wrote in his report.

Kurds are captive to the painful memories of repression under Hussein; like the Sunni and Shiite Arabs, who fought a brutal sectarian war, the Kurds, too, cling to a narrow identity, theirs defined by ethnicity, rather than national citizenship.

“How can we forget?” said Bakir Karim, a member of the Kurdish Parliament in Erbil who described Iraq as a “fake state” created by the British after World War I that, he said, has only “harmed us and tortured us.”

He added, “If you ask any Kurd if he wants independence from Iraq, without hesitation he will say yes.”

Khanaqin, a few miles from the Iranian border, lies at the end of a belt of rugged land in northern Diyala Province that runs from Sadiyah through Jalawla, another disputed town. It is also a place of ethnic rivalry, where Arabs and Kurds are trying the soft ways of democracy to settle feuds that nevertheless can still end in bloodshed.

Outside a Kurdish political office in Jalawla is a mural of three men, representing the area’s main ethnicities: Arab, Kurd and Turkmen. “We are all brothers,” it declares.

Inside, Khader Mohammed, who directs the office, waved an intelligence report he recently received from authorities in Baquba, Diyala’s capital. It claimed that the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of militants, would “attempt a number of attacks to destabilize the security situation in the province.” Among the targets: Mr. Mohammed.

“I’m not afraid,” he said. “This is my duty. I have to do my work.”

Karim Ali, 60, is among those who may soon leave. Like many Kurds here, Mr. Ali was forced out in the mid-1970s as part of the Hussein government’s “Arabization” policy, which aimed to dilute ethnic opposition. He resettled in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, but reclaimed his old home in 2003 as some Arabs, fearing revenge from the Kurds, decided to return to their original homes in other regions.

Though a court was set up to handle claims stemming from the Arabization policy, Kurds say that property records that would verify their ownership claims were destroyed. As a result, Arabs are now reclaiming homes that were seized from Kurdish families in the Hussein years.

This, Mr. Ali said, is what happened to him. “This belonged to my father,” he said, standing outside his home. “In 20 days, I have to evacuate my house.” He said he was taken to a police station in handcuffs several months ago and forced to sign papers turning the property over to an Arab who held the deed from 1975 to 2003.

“It’s the same as during Saddam,” Mr. Ali said. “It’s even worse now because I was young then, and now I’m old.”

Local officials say nearly 400 houses in Jalawla are being turned over in a similar fashion. Mr. Ihsan, the Kurdish representative in Baghdad, is also involved in matters related to these disputed areas. He said the process was rife with corruption: “We have the most corrupted judicial system in the world.” (A 2009 report on internal displacement in Iraq by the Brookings Institution and the University of Bern called the process one of “incomprehension” and “frustration.”)

“It’s getting worse,” Mr. Ihsan said. “The Americans left without finishing the job. We are worried that history is going to repeat itself.”

For their part, Arabs in the area say that they are also targets of terrorist attacks, and that the property transfers are the result of a fair and legal process.

On a recent afternoon, Rasmiya Ahmed, the mother of Mr. Jumai, the murdered officer, unzipped a blue nylon pouch and out tumbled the strips of pills that provide her with a measure of relief from her sleeplessness and anxiety. Another son, a soldier, was killed last year. “I don’t have anyone now,” she said.

The Kurds may be free from the Baath Party’s brutality, but for Ms. Ahmed things were better then, because, she said, “at least I had my boys.”

Duraid Adnan contributed reporting from Khanaqin, and employees of The New York Times from Diyala and Erbil Provinces.

IHS Global Insight    April 24, 2012

Kurdish Leader Speaks Out Against Iraqi Premier
Jamie Ingram

This combo of two recent photos shows Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (R) in Kuwait City on March 14, 2012 and Massud Barzani, president of the autonomous northern Kurdish region in Iraq, during a press conference in Arbil, the Kurdish capital of northern Iraq, on March 17, 2012. Barzani said Maliki is monopolising power and preparing the ground for a return to dictatorship in an interview published on April 8, 2012. GETTY

The President of Iraq`s northern autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, launched a diatribe against Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki on Sunday (22 April). Barzani told reporters in the Kurdish capital Arbil that he opposed the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Iraq during Maliki`s premiership due to his fears that the warplanes would be used against Kurdistan. The president alleged that during a previous meeting with military officers, discussions turned to using force against Kurdistan and Maliki stated “wait until the arrival of the F-16”. The United States is keen to improve weaknesses in Iraq`s air-defence system and has agreed to sell 36 F-16 aircraft to the government. Iraq originally ordered just 18 in September 2011, but subsequently ordered a further 18 in December of that year.

Relations between Iraq`s federal government and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) have grown increasingly strained in recent months over oil revenues (see Iraq: 5 April 2012: ), while Maliki has been highly critical of the KRG hosting fugitive vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi and subsequently allowing him to fly to Doha, Qatar (see Iraq: 3 April 2012: ). Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed Maliki in recent days, accusing him of stoking sectarian tensions between Iraq`s Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shi`a Arabs and on 19 April, met with Barzani in Istanbul. Responding to Erdogan`s comments, Maliki accused Turkey on 20 April of interfering in Iraq`s internal affairs, labelling its neighbour a “hostile state”.

Significance: The KRG will not depend on Turkey as a reliable ally, knowing that its support will only stretch so far given Turkey`s concerns over its own Kurdish population, and instead will hope the US will guarantee its security. Maliki`s attempts to transform Iraq into a regional leader are being dashed by the latest cooling of relations with Turkey, while the Sunni Gulf States remain too concerned about Iranian influence over the Iraqi government to trust him. Iraq`s warming relations with Iran and inability to calm internal sectarian tensions risk leaving it dependent upon Iran as its only ally in the region. Nevertheless, the US will likely continue with the sale, fearing that not to do so would risk further pushing Iraq into Iran`s arms., AFP    April 24, 2012

Iraq PM must not obtain F-16s: Kurdistan chief
AFPBy Abdel Hamid Zebari

The leader of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan, Massud Barzani (C), pictured on April 19. Barzani opposes the sale of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Nuri al-Maliki is premier, as he fears they would be used against the region. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan, said he opposes the sale of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Nuri al-Maliki is premier, as he fears they would be used against the region.

Barzani also said that he thinks that oil giant ExxonMobil, which has signed an oil exploration deal with Kurdistan against Baghdad's wishes, could provide significant protection for the region.

His latest remarks, which follow a number of others in which the Kurdish leader has accused Maliki of centralising power and moving toward dictatorship, indicate his continued concern about the potential threat of a powerful Iraqi central government.

"The F-16 must not reach the hand of this man," Barzani told reporters at his residence near the Kurdistan region's capital Arbil on Sunday, referring to Maliki.

"We must either prevent him from having these weapons, or if he has them, he should not stay in his position," Barzani said.

Barzani alleged that Maliki had discussed using F-16s against Kurdistan during a meeting with military officers.

"During a military meeting, they talked about problems between Baghdad and Arbil," Barzani said.

"They told him, 'Sir, just give us the authority, and we would kick them out of Arbil'," Barzani said. "And (Maliki) answered: 'Wait until the arrival of the F-16'."

The United States has agreed to sell 36 F-16 jets to Baghdad in a multi-billion-dollar deal aimed at increasing the capabilities of Iraq's fledgling air force, a weak point in its national defences.

"When I went to the United States, they (Exxon) wanted to see me and I met the president of the company and other people and they said they are committed to (the contract) they signed with the Kurdistan region," Barzani said, referring to a visit to the US this month.

"If ExxonMobil came, it would be equal to 10 American military divisions," he said, adding that "they will defend the area if their interests are there."

On October 18, Kurdish authorities signed a deal with ExxonMobil for it to explore six areas in Kurdistan, but Baghdad regards any contracts not signed with the central government as invalid.

The Kurdistan region has been autonomous since a no-fly zone was established there in 1991, but it has a long history of conflict with the Iraqi central government, whose leaders have repeatedly sought to bring it under central control.

"That is the basic fear of the Kurds historically," said Iraq analyst Reidar Visser, the editor of the Iraq-focused website

Jotyar Adil, a professor of political science at Salaheddin University in Arbil, said that "there are fears by the president of the region that go back to the historical memory of the Kurdish authorities of the successive Iraqi governments," referring to past conflict between the Kurds and Baghdad.

Barzani said on March 20 that "there is an attempt to establish a one-million-strong army whose loyalty is only to a single person," according to an English transcript of his remarks.

And he claimed that Maliki and the government were "waiting to get F-16 combat planes to examine its chances again with the peshmerga (Kurdish militia)."

Barzani has since accused Maliki of moving toward dictatorship, and said the premier aimed to "kill the democratic process" after the head of Iraq's electoral commission was arrested for alleged corruption.

Earlier this month, Kurdistan stopped oil exports over $1.5 billion owed to foreign oil companies working in the region that it says Baghdad has withheld.

The central government's top two oil officials responded by saying Arbil owed Baghdad more than $5 billion in promised exports, and was smuggling the oil it produced to Iran.

Kurdistan also hosted Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi after he was accused of running a death squad and declined to hand him over to the central government.

The region then permitted the fugitive official to leave on a trip that first took him to Qatar, then Saudi Arabia, and now Turkey.

Today’s Zaman     April 29, 2012

Iraq on Brink of Disintegration As Rift With Turkey Deepens

 – In the midst of a massive wave of political transformation across the entire Middle East, Iraq’s Tehran-backed Shiite leadership has turned a blind eye to the country’s fragile truce among various ethnic and sectarian groups, throwing Iraq’s key power-sharing agreement into disarray in an attempt to consolidate power and further stoking concerns that the unprecedented political crisis in the war-torn country may risk its division.

“The current political situation in Iraq is like a time bomb that could explode at any moment,” Sadrist lawmaker Bahaa al-Araji, whose group backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2010, recently told the media. The lawmaker accused the prime minister of creating the current political impasse in Iraq and said the Kurds could be the first domino to fall in a broken Iraq. “Baghdad has the same problems with other provinces,” he said, adding that “this will lead to the dividing of Iraq, and there will be no Iraq on the world map.”

Araji’s remarks have illustrated a prevailing sense of fear that reigns in Ankara among Turkish officials, who have added fuel to the escalating war of words between Ankara and Baghdad. Turkey’s intervention into Iraq’s domestic politics prompted an undiplomatic reaction from Maliki, who bluntly said Turkey is becoming a hostile state in the region. The political crisis engulfed Iraq shortly after US troops left last year, when Maliki’s government moved against two Sunni politicians, seeking the removal of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges he had run death squads.

Hashemi, who is now in Turkey, had initially fled to the Kurdish region, angering Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani had refused to hand him over to the central government for trial, saying the criminal case had political implications.

Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has told Sunday’s Zaman that Maliki is trying to export the problem he has created by saying that Turkey is interfering in its domestic affairs. He added that Turkey has been warning both Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad and Maliki. “There is a real danger unless Maliki tries to establish a national unity government,” Gerges said. Turkish officials have claimed that Turkey’s interference in Iraq’s internal affairs is closely linked to Turkey’s national and security interests. The largest security threat to Turkey in the past several decades, after all, has been from northern Iraq, which harbored Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) camps. Turkish warplanes frequently bomb PKK facilities in Iraq.

Iraq saw a devastating civil war in 2007-2008 in which more than 100,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed. But Iraq’s distinct ethnic and sectarian factions may simply opt to secede instead of vying for Baghdad, which risks repeating the worst-case scenario — a resumption of full-fledged civil strife. The first signal of division came from the president of Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdish region, who demanded in an interview with The Associated Press that Shiite leaders agree on sharing power with their political opponents by September, or the Kurds would consider seceding.

“What threatens the unity of Iraq is dictatorship and authoritarian rule,” Barzani said, adding that if Iraq heads towards democracy, there will be no trouble. “But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, we will not be able to live with that.” Many have played down Barzani’s remarks as a bluff, intended to press Maliki to consider the seriousness of the crisis. The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius told Sunday’s Zaman that he agrees Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis are uneasy about Maliki’s rule, but a breakup of Iraq is unlikely.

“One of the important positive developments in the region are the increasing ties between Turkey and the Kurdish regional government, and that’s a good protection for Kurdish interests. But I don’t think the Turks, or any other regional powers, want to see Iraq divided,” Ignatius said.

Turkey, along with Iran, is weary of the danger of an independent Kurdish state, which may destabilize Turkey’s sizeable Kurdish population. One of Turkey’s leading experts on international politics, Tayyar Ar? from Uluda? University, said possible secession in Iraq could risk igniting a new conflict which may have regional repercussions. He warned that Kurds in both Syria and Iran may have similar desires for emancipation and division in Iraq may spark new rebellions in the region.

Mehmet Seyfettin Erol from Gazi University said the Kurdish region in northern Iraq is Turkey’s sphere of influence and that heralded a more cooperative era of Turkish-Kurdish relations.

Ar? said the authoritarian rule of Maliki also irritates Shiites, whose political leadership helped him secure power in 2010. He speculated about new initiatives that could bring a Sadr-led government into power. Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr visited Barzani on Thursday, seeking to ease tensions between Baghdad and the Kurds, but it was not immediately clear if both politicians spoke about a new coalition.

Along with Iraq’s fugitive vice president, Turkey was also hosting Maliki’s political rival Barzani, whose talks with Turkish officials yielded a burgeoning partnership with Ankara. Barzani also weathered concerns in Turkey that his political ambitions may spark a wider call for emancipation in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish populated areas. Sunni lawmakers and cabinet ministers also feel the heat of Baghdad, whose Iraqiya political coalition won the most seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections but were outmaneuvered by Maliki for the right to form the government. They complain that Maliki is not complying with the power-sharing agreement and sidelining the Sunni politicians.

Erol said it will be difficult to maintain the unity of Iraq under the leadership of Maliki and warned against wider rivalry between Turkey and Iran over grabbing power and influence in Syria and Iraq. He said Turkey’s success in Syria depends on to what degree Turkey succeeds in securing its influence within Iraq, and warned against confrontation between Turkey and Iran if Ankara and Tehran do not cooperate on several regional matters.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has also been working on a comprehensive plan to reinvigorate the 2006 Mecca agreement — a 10-point compromise deal reached by major Iraqi factions in which Muslim Shiite and Sunni groups called for an end to the bloodshed and sectarian violence — in order to resolve the disputes in Iraq, Ekmeleddin ?hsano?lu, secretary-general of the OIC, has told Sunday’s Zaman.

The OIC reconciliation conference at which the Mecca agreement was signed had helped to stabilize Iraq. ?hsano?lu has said the request to renew the Mecca agreement actually came from Maliki himself.Touching upon Maliki’s request for the OIC to renew the Mecca agreement, Ali Semin, a Middle East expert from the Turkish think tank Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (B?LGESAM), has stated that Maliki’s attempt was to show that the Hashemi case had nothing to do with the Sunni issue.

“Maliki distinguishes the Sunni issue from Hashemi, which is a very wrong approach. But, he is also aware that the Hashemi event will turn into Sunni-Shiite tension. So, this concern prompted Maliki to make the request,” Semin has said.When asked what could be the reason behind Maliki’s request to renew the Mecca agreement, Professor Birol Akgün, a specialist from the Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE), told Today’s Zaman that Maliki might be worried about the messages that have recently come from the US and Turkey.

“Maliki does not want to show that he is surrendering to Turkey. So, he is trying to decrease the tension via the OIC. He also wants to show his good intentions to the international community. But he is insincere about his request,” Akgün said.

EA World View / MESOP    April 29/30, 2012

Iraq Analysis
Kurdistan’s Contest with Prime Minister al-Maliki Heats Up
Van Wilgenburg

Sunday, April 29, 2012 – Enduring America - In recent weeks, tensions between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani have been elevated in the media. This is not a just a battle of rhetoric, however — there are serious issues over oil, disputed territory, the fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq Hashimi, and weapons. Al-Maliki’s MPs have accused Barzani of trying to weaken the Iraqi army and seeking to take over Kirkuk by armed force.

Nuri al-Maliki and Massoud Barzani

The SLA’s media counter-attack is being waged after Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Authority, claimed al-Maliki was thinking of using US-delivered F-16s and tanks against the Kurds. Ihsan al-Awadi accused Barzani of weakening Iraq, as he sought control of the disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil: “Barzani played a large role in delay of armament of the Iraqi Army since he emplaced many agents at the security ministries in order to delay arming the Iraqi Army while he was planning to buy 300 tanks from Bulgaria, Montenegro and Russia to strengthen the capacity of the Army of Kurdistan Region.” Only the Baghdad Government had blocked this scheme.

Another State of Law official, Sami al-Askari, told Al Sumaria that Barzani tried to buy heavy weapons and tanks during his visits to Europe, but was refused by the Europeans. Askari demanded that the Kurds should hand over tanks they captured from the former regime, asserting they are not allowed to possess heavy weapons. He warned that while the Kurds feared Iraq’s delivery of F-16s to Baghdad, the people of Kirkuk, Diyala and Nineveh fear the tanks of Barzani.

An Iraqi columnist based in Denmark, Iyad al-Samawi, invoked threat rather than worry. He wrote that the “weapons of the Iraqi army raise fear in the heart of Kurdish separatists”, even as the Kurds are trying to build a state on the ruins of Iraq. To counter this, the country needed a “strong and modern army feared by everyone”.

Information on hand does not support the notion of a powerful Kurdish force. Attempts to purchase weapons outside Iraq have been hindered by leaks to the media. In 2008, for example, The Washington Post reported that three C-130 cargo planes from Bulgaria delivered small arms and ammunition to the Kurds. So while the Iraqi Kurds have T-55 tanks that are non-operational, the Iraqi army has T-72s that are ready, and they are planning to buy more tanks from Ukraine. Moreover, Iraqi Kurds fear that Washington will allow Baghdad to overpower the Kurds with US-purchased weapons.

According to a report from RAND, the Iraqi army could defeat the Kurdish armed forces in 2015, although not in areas inhabited mainly by Kurds.While RAND believe this might lead the Kurds to pursue the takeover of disputed areas by force, the time for the Kurds to take over Kirkuk appeared to have passed.

Instead of using the well-trained Kurdish army against the Iraqi security forces, Masoud Barzani is trying to get US and Turkish support for pressure on Baghdad., raising the spectre that Maliki is trying to take over Iraqi institutions. Barzani told Al-Hayat that Maliki is now the Prime Minister, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the general military governor, Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior, director of intelligence, and, if he can get away with it, head of the Central Bank.

Al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance has said other Kurdish political parties believe Barzani is overstepping the mark in his criticism, but the Kurdish opposition Change said that the use of the Iraqi army against Kurds justified Barzani’s fears of the purchase of heavy arms by Baghdad. Other commentators in Iraq and the region have echoed this: pro-Saudi editor-in chief Tariq al-Hamid of Al-Sharq al-Awsat, wrote, “Al-Maliki does not want to establish himself as a new Saddam Hussein, but to assume [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s role in the region.”

So what next? Keep an eye on the regional kaleidoscope. The Iraqi Kurds will move closer to Turkey, even if they fail to get US support to take on al-Maliki. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Prime Minister moves closer to Iran, even though the Iraqi Kurds also have ties to Tehran.

RUDAW / MESOP    April 29, 2012

Maliki Given Ultimatum at Leaders Meeting in Erbil
By Hevidar Ahmed

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Several of Iraq’s key leaders have given Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki a 15-day ultimatum to deliver on a previous power-sharing agreement that was reached in 2010, Rudaw has learned. The ultimatum came during a meeting of leaders of some of Iraq’s largest political factions in Erbil.

Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, Muqtada Sadr, the leader of the powerful Shia Sadrist Current, Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and former PM Ayad Allawi attended the meeting on Saturday.  Informed sources told Rudaw that the United States and Iran have voiced their support for the ultimatum. “The decisions reached in Erbil are the last chance for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki,” Speaker Nujaifi said at the conclusion of the meeting at the residence of President Talabani. “If Maliki does not implement these demands, we will have to adopt other options vis-a-vis Maliki.” “This is the last chance for Maliki and it is not acceptable if he does not follow the national partnership. Maliki does not have much time and needs to hurry up.”

Giving a “last chance” to Maliki came at the request of Muqtada Sadr, who was invited to Erbil by Barzani; the Kurds agreed.

For their part, the Kurds criticize Maliki for failing to deliver on an 18-point agreement they made with the prime minister. Without the Kurds’ support, Maliki would have not been able to form the government. Senior Kurdish officials say they have no problem with Maliki despite recent tensions between the Kurdish government and Baghdad.

Speaking to Rudaw, Aref Tayfoor, the Kurdish deputy speaker of Iraqi Parliament, said Iran has been involved in resolving the disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad.  “Before Sadr’s visit to the Kurdistan Region and Maliki’s visit to Iran, a senior Iranian official visited Baghdad and then Erbil and met with the Kurdish leadership,” said Tayfoor. Iranian officials asked the Kurds to grant Maliki another chance and told Maliki during his recent visit to Tehran to improve relations with the Kurds.

A source privy to the meetings denied some media reports that Sadr carried a message from Iran to the Kurds, saying “Relations between Iran and the Kurds are very good and if Tehran has anything to communicate to them, it would do so directly, not through letters and messages.”

Following the meeting, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told Rudaw that “the outcome of the meeting was very good.” Absent at the meeting were the State of Law Coalition and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, two of the largest Shia groups in the country. The two factions had received invitations to attend.

Adnan Mufti, a former speaker in Kurdistan’s parliament who attended the meeting, told Rudaw that the Kurds demanded resolution of the outstanding disputes between Baghdad and Erbil as well as further stabilization of the security situation. “At the meeting, a roadmap was finalized to resolve the issues between Erbil and Baghdad and a timetable has been set for that purpose,” said Mufti. During a meeting with Kurdish members of Iraqi Parliament, Kurdish President Barzani said the current situation in Iraq “is not our choice. There needs to be a radical solution based on the constitution and other agreements.” The meeting in Erbil comes as many Iraqis, especially Kurds and Sunni Arabs, are being vocal in their criticism of PM Maliki, accusing him of moving the country toward an authoritarian system.

Rudaw    April 30, 2012 11:44:00

Former US Diplomat Says Time is Ripe for Kurdish Independence

In this interview with Rudaw, former U.S diplomat and adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government Peter Galbraith says the time is ripe for Kurdish independence thanks to the thriving oil industry, international investment and the fact that Kurds are America’s only reliable ally in the volatile region. Galbraith says Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is not following the constitution or respecting the rights of Kurdistan.
Former US diplomat and adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government, Peter Glabraith. Photo Nacional

Rudaw: Do you think the constitution can prevent the resurgence of a dictatorship in Iraq?
Peter Galbraith: The constitution establishes a weak central government, enshrines power-sharing among Iraq’s different peoples (Shia, Sunnis and Kurds) at the center and gives the Kurdistan Region de facto independence. As such, the constitution is designed to prevent the reestablishment of a powerful centralized state that has led to dictatorship in the past. But no constitution can prevent dictatorship. That is up to the people.

Rudaw: Do you think constitutions matter in the Middle East region? In these countries, the ruler often has all the authority.
Peter Galbraith: Yes, they matter. But, it is up to the people and their leaders to enforce the constitution.

Rudaw: Right now, Iraq is in political turmoil and most parties accuse PM Nuri al-Maliki of violating the constitution. Do you think he has violated the constitution?
Peter Galbraith: Clearly, he is not following the constitution. He is not respecting Kurdistan’s rights, including those over natural resources, and he has not held the constitutionally required referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

Rudaw: Kurdish leaders blame Maliki for not sharing power and consolidating all of it in his own hands. Do you think those accusations are correct?
Peter Galbraith: Yes. They are correct.

Rudaw: Barzani says that Maliki is only killing time and doesn’t want to solve important issues such as Article 140 regarding the disputed territories and the oil and gas issue. He also says that if the situation continues like this, he will let the people of Kurdistan decide their own future through a referendum.  Does the Iraqi constitution give the Kurds the right to separate from Iraq?
Peter Galbraith: The Kurds agreed to stay in Iraq on the basis of the constitution in its entirety. If the Baghdad government does not keep its part of the bargain, then the basis for Kurdistan’s continued membership in Iraq no longer exists.

Rudaw: When the constitution was written, did you feel it would solve issues such as Article 140 and the Peshmerga?
Peter Galbraith: I knew these issues would be difficult because the mindset of those who wanted a centralized Iraq did not change. But, I hoped the constitution would be followed.

Rudaw: When the Balkan countries gained independence, you were the U.S. ambassador in that region. Based on your experience, do you think now is the right time for Kurdistan to become independent from Iraq?
Peter Galbraith:  Yes. The Kurds tried being part of Iraq for 90 years and Iraq has failed them. I learned in the Balkans that there is something worse than the breakup of a country, and that is trying to keep people in a country against their will.

Rudaw: In your opinion, what are the obstacles to a Kurdish state in Iraqi Kurdistan?
Peter Galbraith: President Massoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani have eliminated the most important obstacles to full independence. They have developed a close political and economic relationship with Turkey, they have created an oil industry in Kurdistan which provides the financial basis for independence and they have encouraged other international investments in Kurdistan. They have shown that Kurdistan is America’s only reliable and democratic ally in Iraq and in a volatile region.

Rudaw: Do you think that, in the future, the U.S. will support an independent Kurdistan?
Peter Galbraith: The U.S. usually supports the status quo and probably will not support secession until after it takes place. The U.S. has no friend as good as the Kurds so it will have no alternative but to accept Kurdistan’s independence once it takes place.

Rudaw: Kurdish leaders were happy when U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil came to Kurdistan. What is your view on that issue?
Peter Galbraith:  There is no greater vote of confidence in Kurdistan’s oil industry than to have the world’s largest oil company invest there.

Rudaw: What do you think of Kurdistan’s oil policy?
Peter Galbraith:  It makes the centuries-old dream of self-government a reality and provides great benefits to the people of Kurdistan.

Rudaw: Generally, the Kurds admire your support for them, but three years ago you were linked to Kurdish oil contracts which some Western media called scandalous. Can you elaborate on that?
Peter Galbraith: Before 2004, Kurdistan was entirely dependent on Baghdad and foreign aid. I helped bring the first oil company to Kurdistan and, as a result, Kurdistan now has a thriving oil industry. For the first time, the people of Kurdistan benefit from their own resources and the Kurdistan government has the resources to run its own affairs. Some Western media criticized my work because they are deeply attached to the bankrupt idea of a centralized Iraq where everything is controlled by Baghdad. I am proud of my contribution to a self-governing and prosperous Kurdistan.

The Kurdish Globe    7 May 2012, 07:26 GMT

Erbil Agreement content disclosed
The Kurdish Globe


The agreement was the basis for the formation of the new Iraqi government's cabinet and political accord

As the winners of the March 2010 parliamentary elections failed to form the new cabinet of the government after eight months, Kurdistan Region's President Massoud Barzani called on a national congress to resolve the disagreements and form the government.

Erbil hosted the conference where President Barzani, Head of State of Law Bloc Nuri al-Maliki and Head of Iraqia party Iyad Allawi reached an agreement, which was signed by Dr. Roj Nuri Shawais, Hassan Sneid and Salman Jumeli, representing the Kurdistani Alliance, National Alliance and Iraqia party, respectively.

Below is the text of the nine-article agreement, which has not previously been published:

A. First Section:

1.Benefits of the members: Reviewing the legislation related to the benefits of the members and amending them (rights, salaries, guards, retirements, financial and administrative authorities).

2. Reforming the parliamentary office: Improving the qualifications of its cadres to be able to responsibly deal with preparing the draft laws for approval, following up the laws of various commissions within specific time limits, as well as not ignoring those laws that are submitted to Parliament as draft laws or suggestions.

B. Second Section: Laws and Regulations

1.Reestablishing the Constitution Amendment Committee in a way that guarantees the real participation of all the winning blocs in the committee, and achieves the amendments that have been agreed upon.

2.Setting specific time limits for the laws: Setting specific approval time for all laws that are required under the Constitution but not yet legislated. This has to be in coordination with the parliamentary offices, the Legal Committee and the specialized committees of the Parliament, and implemented by the speaker of the Parliament on the one hand and the heads of the political blocs on the other hand, according to the following priority:
- Federal Court Law
- Oil and Gas Law
- National Reconciliation Law
- Security Agencies Organization Law
- Parties Law
- United Council Law
- Elections Law
- Elections Commission Law
- Media Network Law
- Public Inspectors Law
- Financial Audit Divan Law
- Balance Board Law
- Federal Revenues Law
- Executive Power Law
- Journalism and Journalists Protection Law

3.Establishing a permanent parliamentary committee and allocating the posts of the head, members and decision-makers according to number of votes as well as constitutional balance.

C. Third Section: Monitoring Role

1. Activation of the affiliation of the independent commissions (Integrity Commission, Financial Audit Commission, Media Network, Relations and Media Commission) to Parliament according to the Constitution and by the verdict of a decision from the Federal Court.
2. Putting an end to the issue of delegation of responsibility or official positions to deputies and delegates (substitute minister, board chair, deputy minister, etc.) within the first three months of the beginning of the work of the Parliament as well as guaranteeing the constitutional balance.

3.Stimulating the role of media organizations considering that it is the forth power. Legislating the journalism work and journalist protection laws.

4. Setting a clear and agreed-upon mechanism to summon and question the executive members and not leaving the issue for the presidency's analysis.

D. Forth Section: Security Reform

1.Security institutions laws and authorities: Deciding on the laws of the security institutions that determine the active security institutions and clarifying the duties and authorities of each institution to achieve the complementary state, and in a way that minimizes encounters between the specializations of the security institutions.

2.The need for the development of the security institutions to achieve the highest degree of professionalism.

3.Forcing the security institutions to obey questioning by the council of representatives (according to constitutional procedures) and drafting necessary laws to impose severe penalties on those who are proven to be spying for the interest of foreign parties.

4.Investigating all officials and members of the security forces against whom suits are filed for breaching human rights and not providing any protection for any of those for any reason.

5.Stimulating the role of the provincial councils according to the Constitution and the provincial committees' councils in a way that guarantees the implementation of the decisions of these councils that are related to security.

6.Establishing investigation centers to make use of retired citizens.

7. Organizing and strengthening the borders with new equipment and in a way that guarantees control of the borders.

7.Toughness with those who enter the country illegally.

8.Establishing a specialized committee to monitor national disasters and offering fast and effective solutions to the affected areas.

9.Strengthening the role and authority of the national intelligence agencies and developing their cadres as required by Iraqi national security, fighting espionage and following up the security intelligence activities on Iraq's soil as well as drafting effective laws in this regard.

E. Fifth Section: Judicial Reform

1.The presidencies of the Higher Judicial Council and the Federal Court or Tribunal Court should be unified.

2.Accelerating the process of establishing the judicial power according to the Constitution, stimulating and developing the work of the attorney general.

3.Accelerating the establishment of the Judicial Power Law according to the Constitution as well as stimulating and improving the work of General Appeal Court.

4.Accelerating the approval of the Higher Judicial Council Law.

5.Preventing judges from working outside the Higher Judicial Council's institutions.

6.Revising the Terror Law.

7.Keeping balance among the government institutions.

F. Sixth Section:

i.    Achieving national balance in:
1.Ministries' deputies
3.Head of the independent boards and commissions
4.In the federal ministries and military and security institutions, at the levels of director and above or equivalent posts (chief of divisions, ministries, divans, etc.).

ii.    Balance Board Law shall be approved within a period of no more than six months after the commencement of the parliamentary committees, and the board shall be established immediately after the approval of the law, per the mutual agreement of the blocs.

iii.    The board will respect the constitutional balance and guarantees the rights of all regions and provinces in all the state institutions, including the security and military institutions at all levels.

iv.    Stimulating the role of the Ministerial Council and the independent commissions as well as granting adequate authority to the deputy ministers and assistants of the independent boards to achieve power sharing.

v.    Fully activating the Constitution and the laws related to employment and accelerating the establishment of the Federal Service Council, which is addressed in the Article 107 of the Constitution and the previous Council of Representatives has approved at the end.

G. Seventh Section: Reform in the Work of the Executive Power

1.Depending on the principle of skill and professional capability, as well as achieving constitutional equity in the public sector jobs, according to the Public Service Law.

2.Constitutional balancing that has been distorted by the employment processes of the past and guaranteeing provincial representation according to the Constitution (there has been no agreement about this).

3.Guaranteeing the real participation of the allied parties in the government in making political, security and economic decisions.

4.Approving agreed-upon internal procedures for the Ministerial Council that determines procedures and the authority of the council and its members.

5.Organizing the security institutions that are not addressed in the Constitution in the security ministries according to their respective specialization and their necessity for the security situations, which has to be dome in steps.

6.Educational and agricultural initiatives will be associated with specialized ministries and no initiative will be accepted in the future unless by Ministerial Council decision.

7.Stimulating the role of Ministerial Council supervisor on the ministerial roles.

8.Stimulating solutions for administrative and financial corruption phenomena.

9.Abiding by the unity of the government's official statements.

10.Banning joining of legislative and executive posts.

11.Banning the direct interference in the affairs of the ministries by the MPs, advisers and director generals for the interest of any political groups, and dealing with minister as the highest person in the ministry.

12.President of the Ministerial Council and all ministers shall abide by the decrees of the Ministerial Council and the approved laws, while considering that they are representing the state in their ministries rather than representing their political groups or representatives, and whoever breaches this, necessary action will be taken to dismiss him/her from his/her posts.

13.General inspectors in the ministries will not be from the same bloc as the minister.

H. Eighth Section: National Accord

1.In the critical issues such as (war and peace, strategic agreements, constitutional amendments) a 100 percent consensus should be achieved among all allies.

2.In strategic and important issues, voting shall be on 50+1 majority basis.

3.In daily crime issues, voting shall be on 50+1 majority basis.

I.Ninth Section: Inquiry, Justice and National Reconciliation

1.Holding the decisions of the current board except for day-to-day issues.

2.Establishing Inquiry and Justice Board according to the law.

3.Revising the law of Inquiry and Justice by the agreed-upon amendments so that the law is not used on bilateral measures or for political purposes, and the dossier will be treated according to law.

Guardian    10 May 2012  09:00

Corruption scandals threaten to destabilise Iraqi Kurdistan
Kurdish president Masoud Barzani has won international recognition for the region
but has forgotten about reform at home
 Fazel Hawramy

President Massoud Barzani 'is fast becoming an important player both in the Middle East and in the west'. Photograph: Mustafa Ozer/AFP/Getty Images

Last month, Zana Salih, the mayor of Iraqi Kurdistan's second largest city, Sulaymaniah, was arrested on corruption charges relating to the embezzlement of close to half a billion dollars. One week later he was found dead in a police cell. While the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) maintains that the mayor hanged himself, the mayor's wife and many members of the public believe he was killed because he had threatened to name a number of powerful corrupt officials.

The mayor's suspicious death has contributed to a growing distrust of the KRG administration, which is suffering from a toxic mix of corruption and lack of accountability. The International Crisis Group recently warned that widespread corruption, "threatens to undermine the significant progress Iraq has made toward reducing violence and strengthening state institutions".

Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein the Kurdish region has become the most stable part of Iraq and its president, Massoud Barzani is fast becoming an important player both in the Middle East and in the west. While close to 4,500 US soldiers have been killed in the non-Kurdish areas, no coalition soldier has died in the Kurdistan region in the last nine years. When President Obama officially received President Barzani in the White House in April, he reaffirmed the US's "close and historic relationship with Kurdistan and the Kurdish people …" This was an extraordinary reception for a former rebel leader who struggled to obtain a visa to the US in the late 1970s when his father was dying of cancer in a Washington hospital.

Turkey, too, finally seems to be taking note of the KRG, having denied the existence of the Kurdish people for much of the 20th century. Following Barzani's visit to the US, he was welcomed by the Turkish government who received him as if he was the head of a fully independent state.

Yet just as he is receiving this acclaim Barzani appears to have forgotten about the implementation of much-needed reforms at home. An important lesson of the uprisings across the Arab world is that the survival of the KRG does not depend so much on the support of foreign powers but on introducing and implementing genuine reforms that strengthen the rule of law and empower the public to hold their government to account. President Barzani only needs to look at the fate of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali of Tunisia to see what happens when you disregard the wishes of your people.

This month marks the second anniversary of the unsolved murder of Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman who wrote about the corruption of Kurdish government officials prior to his death. In their latest Impunity index, the Committee to Protect Journalists described his murder as "emblematic of the deeply entrenched culture of impunity in Iraq".

The extent of the brutality of the Kurdish police became even more apparent last year during widespread protests when thousands of people showed their solidarity with the uprisings in the Arab world. Ten unarmed protesters, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed by the security forces. Ali Barzanji, a lecturer from Sulaymaniah University who was detained with many other protesters, stated in a recent interview that the mistreatment he endured at the hands of the Kurdish police was worse than what he suffered in Saddam's era as a student in the 1980s.

All this does not mean that the KRG has not implemented any reforms. The fact that these stories have come to light is partly due to the fact that the press in Kurdistan is much freer than in many other countries in the region. There has been significant progress in other areas too: the death penalty is about to be abolished; foreign investment is pouring in; 36% of parliamentarians are women; more than 1,600 Kurdish students have been sent to study at leading international universities; and there is even a female MP campaigning to legalise prostitution.

President Barzani once made a pledge that if he ever got a chance to establish an administration in Kurdistan, he would turn the region into "a citadel of democracy and pluralism". It will soon be 10 years since Saddam Hussein's regime collapsed and it is about time that President Barzani lived up to his pledge – not least to avoid the possibility of an uprising in his own country.

Al-Akhbar / MESOP    May 29/30. 2012

Iraqi Kurdistan: Death of an Uprising
Joe Dyke –

One year after the quashed protests in Iraqi Kurdistan, Al-Akhbar finds a collective depression amongst those involved in the movement, powerless and without cohesive representation while corruption within the government is still rife. In February 2011, inspired by uprisings in the Arab world, the Kurds of Iraq rose up against their leaders, demanding an end to the stranglehold of power of the two dominant parties in their semi-autonomous region.

For over two months protesters occupied a key square of the second city Sulaymaniyah calling for reform, real democracy, and an end to corruption in the oil rich region that long been dominated by two politicians – Massoud Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The two have divided the realm between them, with oil wealth being split between the parties. The current oil minister remains in his post despite a major corruption investigation against him in the UK.

From the beginning of the uprising, security forces of both the KDP and the PUK cracked down hard, with one person killed and dozens more injured on the first day alone. In total at least ten people died, while hundreds of others suffered serious injuries. The sheer force of the crackdown eventually silenced the protesters, leaving behind the remnants of a revolution.

On the wall of a small cafe sit a series of photos of men with bloody hands, carrying their dying friends or staring into the camera half-shocked, half-defiant. The images are reminiscent of those seen in Tunisia, Egypt and even Libya.

Both parties in the region have pretended to investigate the killings of unarmed protesters, but both have an interest in silence as they were equally complicit. Between piles of copies of Western philosophy translated into Kurdish, Nasik Kadir is filling out forms. The de facto spokesman of the Sulaymaniyah protests, she has taken it upon herself to lead the fight for those who lost out in the crackdown, holding regular surgeries for those injured and the families of those killed. In the course of an hour a series of men and women pass by, with Kadir taking down their details and recording the injuries inflicted on them or their loved ones. She says that both parties in the region have pretended to investigate the killings of unarmed protesters, but both have an interest in silence as they were equally complicit.

“It was very clear that the shooters were the gunmen of the force compound of KDP firstly. The following days it was done by the authorities in Sulaymaniyah, which is PUK,” she says.

“They have created so many different committees (for investigations), within government, within parliament, within Barzani’s office. But in Kurdistan all is divided among the two main political parties, the result is nothing.”

Kadir bemoans the dearth of independent journalism to hold the government to account. “Civil society is very weak in Kurdistan, the media that exists; almost all of it belongs to one of the political parties…The problem is the absence of the rule of law. The persons or the forces (who killed protesters) have been identified by the court but the political parties are not handing them over.”

Among those waiting patiently for Kadir’s advice is Zahid Mahmoud Imam, whose 14-year-old son Surkew was killed on the third day of the protests. Heading home from school, Shurkio came across and joined a protest. Security forces fired lived ammunition at the crowd, hitting Shurkio. He was rushed to hospital, but died later that night.

“Until now, the court hasn’t made a decision concerning the criminals who killed my son,” Imam says. “I want a free trial, not one controlled by political parties.”

The capital city’s silence was taken by the ruling political parties as a sign of tacit support.Kadir’s campaign, she says, has two aims. “Firstly you cannot find even one place where all the names of the victims are listed, so we said at least we can gather the names to see how many people were injured. Many of them are seeking compensation,” she says. “The second aim is a humanitarian one; we are just trying to make the youth feel better about themselves.”

And positivity appears to be in short supply in the movement. All those involved in the protests that Al-Akhbar met, both in Sulaymaniyah and the capital Erbil, seemed deflated, almost bereft by the failure of the movement. San Saravan, a Kurdish media activist whose film of the attack on the first day of protests proved a key tool in spreading the uprising, says there was a collective feeling of depression after the movement failed.

Describing the prevailing sense of loss, Saravan said “Every day we were making a movement, we were part of a movement and suddenly it stopped. Everything was quiet and they controlled it with guns.”

He claims that many of those who could left the country for fear of further repercussions. “The people who were active, some of them have run away, they have claimed asylum, some of them are in hiding, some of them can’t walk safely in the streets. As a movement everything has gone backwards.”

The Post Mortem

All of those involved have different theories as to why the revolution in Kurdistan failed but all stress the importance of carrying out a self-autopsy in order to identify the moment the region became condemned to be ‘nearly revolutionary.’ One key element was the lack of protests outside of Sulaymaniyah, particularly in Erbil. The capital city’s silence was taken by the ruling political parties as a sign of tacit support.

While it is true that Sulaymaniyah has more of a history of independence and protest, there were are other factors at play including the notoriously powerful security forces in the city. One Erbil-based Kurdish journalist tells the story of a prominent protest leader who planned a march in the city last February.

“He said ‘I am going to organise a protest’ and announced it on Facebook. The next day he got a call from a girl he didn’t know being very aggressive. He thought it was probably a trap and then she rang back two days later and said, ‘If you go ahead with the protest then I will say you raped me.’ So he cancelled it.” The journalist says he is convinced the woman was put to it by the security forces.

On a wider level, there were also internal reasons why the movement floundered. In Tunisia and Egypt there was a single figure to unite against, with opposition movements splintering after the fall of the old dictators. In Kurdistan the protests were not against a particular regime, but a corrupt duopoly.

The reason the Sulaymaniyah protests floundered rests in the disconnect between the youth who took to the streets and the opposition parties.Opposition, therefore, required a more feasible alternative vision to be developed, one that offered genuine proposals. The group that claimed that mantle were the Gorran (Change) Movement, who claimed to offer a fresh start for Kurdistan.

But the Change Movement was made up not of the young Kurds who took to the streets, many of whom who had known little of Saddam Hussein’s rule, but instead of older Kurds including seasoned politicians. Maria Fantappie, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Center specializing in Iraq, says the divide between the groups was never bridged.

“The reason the Sulaymaniyah protests floundered rests in the disconnect between the youth who took to the streets and the opposition parties, Gorran and the Islamic party,” she says.

“In the months that followed the protests, the opposition parties failed to recast themselves as representatives of the youth’s demands and as an attractive alternative to the ruling political parties, the KDP and the PUK.”

The Change Movement leaders were, Fantappie says, even treated with suspicion by those on the ground, a claim seemingly borne out by Saravan’s reaction when asked about the group. “As far as I am concerned they couldn’t do anything. The Change Movement said it was a big hope for everyone but after a while it was clear they were acting in the same strategy and with the same ideas as the other political parties.”

What is left is a revolutionary movement in hiding and in depression. The only positive point Fantappie can muster is that the protests, the first of their kind in Kurdistan, prove that the youth is able to mobilize and rise up. “That is undoubtedly a very important step in the building up of a politically-aware civil society,” she says.

Yet travelling around Kurdistan there is no feeling that change is coming, of a second round of protests to come. Instead there is more a lamentation of a lost opportunity. “The youth were on the streets, they were getting together, they had something to live for,” Kadir says. “But right now everybody has gone back to their corner. It’s a little bit depressing, yes.”

Kurdistan Tribune    July 12, 2012

Kurdistan’s ‘$265 million’ National Security Council:
Nepotism not good governance
By Michael Rubin:

While Kurdish officials often describe the Iraqi Kurdistan region as a democracy, both the region’s reputation and its democratic trajectory took a huge leap backwards last week with President Barzani’s creation by fiat of the National Security Council.
    In theory, coordinating security and policy is noble and can be the hallmark of good governance rather than totalitarianism. Kurdish governance has for too long been bifurcated as neither the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan nor the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has wanted to give up the power and trappings of office, in effect, leading to a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy which persists to the present. Government downsizing, with more money spent on vital infrastructure rather than state salaries and pensions, could set Kurdistan on the path to be a regional economic power.
    Kurdistan’s National Security Council, however, appears directed more toward confirming Masud Barzani’s autocratic tendencies than reform. The problem with the new Council is two-fold, however. First, it reaffirms nepotism. Regional leader Masud Barzani appointed his eldest son Masrour to head the body. Just as with the Assad family in Syria, the Qadhafi clan in Libya, and Saddam Hussein’s sons in Iraq, Masud Barzani now sheds any pretence of democracy as he seeks to use trusted family henchmen regardless of competence or character to control all aspects of power and commerce.
    Masud, of course, shows no intention to step down when his second term as president ends next year. His nephew Nechirvan is again officially prime minister, after managing government affairs only behind-the-scenes during Barham Salih’s interlude. Masrour is now not only the head of the National Security Council, but he also heads the KDP’s intelligence service. It is probably no coincidence that Falah Mustafa, a prominent spokesman for the KDP’s government, did not even bother to recycle the usual talking points about Kurdistan being a democracy in a recent essay published by The Huffington Post’s United Kingdom edition. That Masud apparently believes that there are no Kurds more capable than his own son to head the new Council reflects the disdain Barzani now engenders for the people he claims a birthright to represent. Masud, who already suffers a poor reputation in Washington, a city whose officials listen far more to Barham Salih, has simply confirmed the worst suspicions regarding his personality and intent.
    Far more dangerous is the fact that the appointment means that the National Security Council will be powerless to coordinate and demand accountability for Kurdish security forces and elite military units which, under the leadership of Masrour and unstable second son Mansour, have run amok. Masrour’s security forces are widely believed complicit in the deaths of journalists and civil society activists. A true national security advisor would be independent of the bureaucracies he or she was to supervise to ensure that security forces and elite military units fought only terrorists and external threats rather than university students and newspaper editors critical of Masud’s corruption. In effect, Masrour’s career now mirrors the trajectory of Qusay Saddam Hussein, whose father appointed him to supervise the Iraqi Republican Guards and head the Special Security Organization. Like Qusay, Masrour is the heir apparent to Kurdish leadership, and like Qusay, Masrour has cultivated a reputation for quiet cruelty.
    A final insult inherent in the new Security Council is its budget. Its reported $265 million budget purse is more than 20 times greater than the budget of the United States’ National Security Council, which in 2010 operated on just $12,231,000. Alas, as Masud’s grip tightens, he increasingly seems to set Kurdistan down a trajectory traveled by Arab autocracies. That he would sacrifice Kurdish aspirations for the ability of profligate sons to act with impunity is simply the latest misfortune in a Kurdish history already beset by too much tragedy.

Al Jazeera     July 30, 2012

Massoud Barzani discusses oil, Syria and independence
Barzani discusses the situation in the region, the battle for control over oil wealth
and the aspirations of his people.
Interview with Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’. –  The Kurdish president warns that Iraq’s Kurds could seek independence if they do not get what they need from Baghdad. On this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, we sit down with Barzani to find out how far he is willing to go to protect and promote the interests of the Kurdish people.
Jane Arraf: This region has been through two wars, sanctions, fighting inside and attacks from outside. It seems more powerful and autonomous than it’s ever been. But do you still feel you are in a struggle for survival?
Massoud Barzani: There’s no doubt that the Kurdish question has made a lot of progress. I cannot deny that there are still a lot of challenges. I can surely say that the Kurds have passed that stage where their survival would be threatened. I believe it would be impossible to step back from whatever we have achieved.

Q: There is a real crisis going on in Iraq and you warned just a few months ago that if it continues, the Kurdish region could seek its independence. Are you still prepared to follow through on that?
Massoud Barzani: If I can make clear what I said exactly: Iraq is facing a serious and genuine crisis and we have two kinds of problems. One is a general problem for Iraq as a whole and the other is problems in the region and Baghdad. We have called for genuine reform for the problems – the Iraqi wide problems and also [for] the ones between the [Kurdish] region and Baghdad. I call upon the Iraqi forces if they are ready and willing to come and deal with us. We are ready to do whatever we can to help solve these problems. If the other Iraqi forces are not ready to follow us, then I will go back to the Kurdish people and ask them to do whatever needs to be done. I am still saying the same thing.

Q: Given that there hasn’t really been much progress between Baghdad and Erbil [the Kurdish capital] do you feel now that you will go Kurdish people in September and ask them in a referendum on whether they want independence?
Massoud Barzani: Frankly speaking, the current situation is not acceptable. Our people cannot tolerate that and I’m sure the Iraqi people will not accept that. But certainly when it reaches that stage, I will go back to the people.
    But in this case, I have to consult with the political parties in the region, I have to consult with the parliament – this is not a decision for me to make alone. But certainly, the moment we are disappointed and lose hope of solving the problems and getting out of this crisis, I will go back to the people. But before that, I have to consult with the political groups here and the parliament.

Q: There have been attempts for some months now to actually have a vote of no confidence in the prime minister. It seems to have failed. Do you hold out any hope that he could be replaced in the next two years before the next elections?
Massoud Barzani: The process has not stopped and the issue of questioning the prime minister (in parliament) will continue.

Q: This seems to have become quite personal. You helped Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki form a unity government. In fact, you helped him become prime minister and there seems to have been a feeling that he has betrayed your trust. How much of this is personal between Prime Minister Maliki and yourself?
Massoud Barzani: I will not allow under any circumstances for the problem to become personal. Of course, I had a lot of trust in Prime Minister Maliki as a result of the old relationship we had. Now certainly, I have lost hope in him as a result of what has happened. I always wished at least once he defended Kurds in some forum the way I do. But unfortunately, in 2008, he ordered the tanks to be moved against the Kurdish people in Khanaqin. From then, I started losing confidence in him.

Q: There does seem to be military buildup. There is tension between the de facto border between the Kurdish region and Iraq, you’ve talked about fears over Iraq having F-16s. What are you doing on your side to ensure that the Kurdish region is secure?
Massoud Barzani: In fact, for us, F-16s are not different from MIG-19 or MIG-21s. We have seen them being used against us. We have seen large numbers of troops, tanks, artillery and other weaponry being used against our people. Our fear is not that, but of the mentality that still believes in using planes, artillery and tanks to solve the problems. This is the wrong approach. The misery and the troubles that Iraq faces today is nothing but a result of that kind of mentality, and we do not want that to be repeated. If Baghdad or the federal government thinks of using such things, then we will be obliged to go back to the times when we had thought of targeting F-16s so that they couldn’t reach here.

Q: Could you expand a little bit more on that – on measures that would not allow their F-16s to target you – are you in fact in the process of taking measures to improve air defence?
Massoud Barzani: All of our efforts would be for us not to allow the situation to reach that point. We want to make sure that balance in the Iraqi army returns. That there will be an Iraqi army for all Iraqis, to defend the entire Iraq and the Iraqi people, and not to use it against the Iraqi people or any region in Iraq. This will be our strategy and this will be our policy and we hope we will succeed in this.

Q: You’ve made amazing strides in relations with Turkey. Turkey is now the economic lifeline of the Kurdish region, but still there are concerns in Turkey of course over growing Kurdish power. Do you think Turkey will allow a Kurdish region that is not just economically more powerful but also militarily more powerful?
Massoud Barzani: I believe that the region has had the willingness and the readiness to have good economic relations with all our neighbours and certainly there has been a lot of progress in our relations with Turkey. The more these kind of economic relations progress, the more it is helpful for them to allay the fears from any other aspect. As far as the military strengthening of the Kurdistan region, this is something relevant to the Kurdish people and the Kurdish region itself and we do not allow anyone else to interfere in it.

Q: Oil now is very much a question. Baghdad has threatened to cut off some of the revenue that it gives to the Kurdish region. The Kurdish region says it’s exporting crude oil to Turkey. One of Prime Minister Maliki’s advisers has warned that things like this could actually lead to armed conflict. Where does this stop?
Massoud Barzani: It is unfortunate that this subject has made clear that some of the people in Baghdad do not intend any goodwill for the people of Kurdistan and are simply hostile to the Kurdistan region. The issue is not legality or constitutionality, but they just want to stop the progress that the Kurdistan region is making – this is our conviction. In fact, none of the contracts that we have signed have violated the constitution. In the draft of 2007 of the oil and gas law, there was a proposal supposed to go to the parliament and there were annexes which said if the law was not passed within May, then both sides could continue signing contracts.
    Why did they not allow the law to pass in the parliament? I will not say that we are right in everything – there may be some issues with us as well. But let’s sit down and talk, let’s look at it. We have not done anything contrary to the constitution. If there is any violation, we are ready to admit and repair it.
    Instead of having animosity against the Kurdish people and Kurdistan, they should respond to the Iraqi people. After spending $27bn on the electricity sector – can they tell the Iraqi people what happened to that money and what is the condition of the electricity sector in the country. They should answer these questions instead of spending time on working against the Kurdish people. They should spend their time providing services to the people of Iraq. I would say the best way forward would be for talks to continue in order to have the oil and gas law passed in the parliament. The moment it would pass it will be an opportunity for the problems to be solved. In contrast, if we wait for the temperament of a personal decision by someone in Baghdad that would not help the problem. And of course cutting the budget of the region from Baghdad, we would consider it as a declaration of war and Baghdad will be held responsible for whatever consequences that will happen.

Q: What does that mean? If they do cut the budget you do consider it a declaration of war what does that mean? What is the next step?
Massoud Barzani: The moment they cut the budget, it will be considered a declaration of war and when you say there is a declaration of war, it’s obvious what it entails. It’s premature (to talk about that now) but certainly, the moment they do it, then we consider it a declaration of war. I don’t think there is a need to go into details on that.

Q: To most people, declaration of war would mean you get your fighters, you get your weapons and it starts armed conflict. Is that what we are talking about?
Massoud Barzani: There are many options. This is not the only option.

Q: Can the Kurdish region survive economically if Iraq did cut the budget? Through oil exports to Turkey or other places?
Massoud Barzani: This situation will not remain – this situation it will not continue like this.

Q: Does that mean that
Massoud Barzani: The question will not be only about the (Kurdish) region, but will the whole of Iraq remain like that or not? That’s the question.

Q: Which is a good question, because we are seeing increasing attempts at autonomy, some of them from the Sunni provinces, some in the south. Will Iraq hold together?
Massoud Barzani: We are not talking about the old Iraq. Wwe have contributed and are partners in building this new Iraq. The new Iraq should be ruled jointly and also there has to be partnership, real partnership in this country. It’s not about one individual or one group to rule the country. This is exactly what the problem in Iraq is today. It is the problem of one-man rule and the imposition of central things. I do not believe that even Iraqi people will accept that – neither the Shias nor the Sunnis will accept the current situation and it’s not the case that with this crisis, a (single) group would be able to lead Iraq toward an unknown future for the rest of the Iraqi people to accept.

Q: In the Kurdish region these days, young people don’t speak Arabic, they don’t learn it in school, you have your own economy, your own services and you even pretty much control the borders. What is there that still ties the Kurdish region to Iraq?
Massoud Barzani: Of course, Arabic is the official language in the country and in the region and it is studied here in the region, a continuation of the policies of the past 30 years. As far as the second part of the question, this is exactly the reality and the truth that we want to be considered and we want people to be convinced of: Iraq has Arabs and Kurds and we have decided this on the basis of a voluntary union. The moment we are recognised and accepted there will be no problem. If people think that someone in Baghdad can determine our future, it’s wrong. That time is over. If they are ready to make the decision on the basis of a voluntary union to accept this truth, then that is fine. But if they want to forcibly impose their will on our people, we will not accept it.

Q: A few weeks ago, we saw you lower the coffin of one of the Kurdish victims of Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign into the ground. One of tens of thousands still in mass graves. How much has that affected the history of this region?
Massoud Barzani: This is of course a deep wound. We will never forget that. I am very proud of being one individual among the Kurdish people because our people have had their suffering and pain and they don’t think about retaliation or revenge after the tragedies that have happened to them. As far as I’m concerned the remains of that martyr – I didn’t know if that was a man or a woman, a child, a boy or a girl. I had the very strange feeling and probably it was the first time in my life I had that feeling and I thought that he was my brother, he was my son, my mother, my daughter. It really touched me.

Q: You’ve talked of training Syrian Kurds – from Syria. Training them to go back. What do you think is the effect of some of the regions in the Kurdish areas of syria having fallen to opposition fighters? What are we looking at here – is a country that will hold together? What is the future of the Kurds in Syria and how does that affect the Kurds in the region?
Massoud Barzani: Of course, they are our brothers… but the situation for the Syrian Kurds is different than in other areas. They were deprived of the basic right of citizenship, they did not have state identity. They were considered refugees or they were considered as infiltrators. Therefore the training that has taken place is not for fighting, it is just a precautionary measure to play a role in Syria once the situation collapses and there’s a vacuum. Certainly we want to see a change in the Kurdish situation in Syria, but this is something for them to decide upon. It’s their role and we believe that they can play a positive role in building a new Syria that will be democratic and pluralistic.

Q: You’ve talked about hosting a regional conference of Kurds here this year, that would be an extraordinary step – possibly the biggest gathering of Kurds in the region. Do you feel with everything going on in the region, the Arab spring, changes going through, are you on the verge of creating a more powerful Kurdish community across the borders?
Massoud Barzani: The purpose behind the conference is for the Kurds to have a united statement – a statement that stresses on peace and peaceful co-existence and also attempts to solve our problems in a peaceful and democratic way.

Q: You’ve been betrayed at some point, the Kurdish region as a whole, by pretty much everyone. By the Americans in 1991 when they did not immediately come to your aid, by Turkey, by the surrounding countries. Who do you trust, who are your allies?
Massoud Barzani: Of course, the world has changed. But before anything else, we believe in God and we believe in our people.

Q: Here in the Kurdish region there are some concerns that the democracy you are aiming for hasn’t quite taken hold. Elections here, provincial elections which were to have been held have been delayed. When will those take place and how do you respond to the criticism that this is not a democratic region?
Massoud Barzani: I have been against the delay of the provincial elections. In fact, when the parliament, the government and the independent commission in Baghdad told us that for technical reasons it can’t be held and has to be delayed, I accepted that. Otherwise, I am against that decision and I support holding the provincial elections.

Q: This region has a tragic history on many levels and part of the tragedy has been Kurds fighting the Kurds in the region. In the 1990s, the other major Kurdish faction appealed to Iran for help and you appealed to Iraqi government, to Saddam Hussein’s forces to help drive them out of Erbil. Is there anything about that part of the past that you regret?
Massoud Barzani: First in my capacity as president of the region, I am proud, and that has been one of the main aims in accepting this responsibility to make sure that this internal Kurdish fighting will not happen again. We will do whatever we can in order to remove that. This was a stage we passed through – it was very unfortunate, very sad. We hope we have put that behind us. And I have no objection if the Kurdish people want to investigate and look into this fighting – how it happened and why and how it came about.

Q: Do you feel there is a gap between what the younger generation wants and what they demand in fact and the older generation who have lived through all these tragedies? Some of the younger generation believes that the time is over for family members to be heads of national security councils for instance. Is there something in those concerns?
Massoud Barzani: Of course, people have all the right to say what they believe in and everybody is free to think – but let them look at the results. Look at the stability and security of the Kurdistan region. The new generation, the old generation, whoever is a resident of the Kurdistan region. What we have in terms of security and stability has been hard to achieve – it has not come without any efforts. These are the results of the working of certain people who have been successful in accomplishing their duties. These people have to be appreciated for what they have done.

Q: You’ve been such an essential part of the history of not just the Kurdish region, but the Kurdish people regionally. How would you like your legacy to be seen?
Massoud Barzani: I have a clear conscience as I have done whatever I have been able to do for the sake of our people. From my childhood, I have done everything to free our people, to liberate our land. The judgment will be left to the people.

Q: Is the region ready for an independent Kurdistan?
Massoud Barzani: It’s a natural right of the people. But when and how it will be ready is a different question.

Q: President Barzani thank you so much for talking to Al Jazeera.
Massoud Barzani: Thank you.

Al-Monitor / As-Safir (Lebanon)   August 7 / 4, 2012

Russia, Turkey quietly spar over Syrian Kurdistan
By Mohammad Ballout

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan attend a news conference in Moscow's Kremlin July 18, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Vladimir Putin’s Middle East Special Envoy Mikhail Bogdanov met with the leaders of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main force controlling the Kurdish areas in northern Syria. That undeclared meeting in Erbil coincided with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s visit to Iraqi Kurdistan last Tuesday, July 31.

It was the first time that a high-ranking Russian official met with Kurdish officials close to Syrian territory. For about a year, the PYD has been administering that territory through elected bodies.

In the meantime, the United Nations General Assembly approved a Saudi-sponsored resolution condemning the Syrian regime’s violence and calling for a transitional process that starts with government forces ceasing the use of heavy weapons. Russia, China, and Iran voted against the resolution while Lebanon and Algeria abstained. Moscow expressed its deep “concern” for Syrian developments, especially in the city of Aleppo, which yesterday saw violent clashes in the district of Salahuddin as the Syrian army tried to enter it. There were deliberations to appoint a successor to Kofi Annan, the Arab and international envoy to Syria. The most prominent candidates for the position are former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari who helped end the Kosovo conflict, Swiss Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, and former UN envoy to Afghanistan Stefan De Mistura. A Western diplomat said that Moratinos is the front-runner.

Russia and the Kurds
The Russians want to find out what the Kurds plan to do with the area they now control. The Kurds have become a major player in northern Syria after the Syrian army left the area to concentrate on other fronts. And the Turks are threatening to intervene in northern Syria. In Turkey’s Kurdish areas, there are daily clashes involving the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

This “Kurdish belt,” which is composed of PKK-controlled cities and municipalities within Turkey and “west Kurdistan” in Syria, constitutes the PYD’s strategic depth and an effective deterrent against the Turkish army. That deterrent “may blow up in the army’s face if it tries to enter Syria’s Kurdish areas,” a PKK official in Europe told As-Safir.

A Syrian Kurdish official told As-Safir that the delegation that met with Bogdanov is the same delegation that Ahmet Davutoglu refused to meet with on the grounds that its PYD members are with the PKK, which Davutoglu accuses of terrorism.

The Kurds assured Bogdanov that the autonomous administration was established to compensate for the Syrian government’s absence in the area, that it will end when things settle down, that Syrian Kurds do not intend to secede and are working within the framework of the Syrian state and that the Kurds will not be a cause of tension for the countries of the region. The opposition source said that Ahmet Davutoglu tried to split the Kurds and has undermined the Kurdish agreement — between the PYD and 14 Kurdish political parties in the Kurdish National Council — stipulating the formation of a joint supreme body to manage the People’s Council for West Kurdistan and the bodies emanating from it.

The Turkish Foreign Minister succeeded in sowing discord between the Kurds last Wednesday [August 1] by insisting that he meet only with Abdul Basit Sida, the president of the Turkey-sponsored Syrian National Council (SNC) and representatives of Kurdish parties but not with the PYD.

A Syrian Kurdish opposition member said that PYD Secretary General Salih Muslim accused the other Kurdish parties of harming the Kurd’s united position by agreeing to Turkish conditions and by attending a meeting that excluded the PYD, their partner in the Supreme Kurdish Council.

The Syrian Kurdish opposition member said that the PYD believes that a deal was struck between the Kurdish parties and the SNC whereby they would be part of SNC institutions and thus isolate the PYD. The PYD accused the other parties of taking a unilateral decision without going back to the Supreme Kurdish Council and promised to respond to this unilateral decision by not returning to Erbil and by directing anyone who wants to meet with the PYD to go to the headquarters of the People’s Council for west Kurdistan in Qamishli, Syria.

SNC President Abdul Basit Sida said in Erbil that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has not and will not withdraw from Aleppo where it is fighting the regular forces. He noted that the SNC is in contact with the combatants fighting Bashar al-Assad “to provide them with supplies.”

Aleppo and the UN General Assembly.
The violent clashes in Aleppo, in northern Syria, continued on Friday [August 3] as the regular forces tried to break into the district of Salahuddin. The regular army was able to advance about 50 meters into Salahuddin while FSA fighters succeeded in fully controlling the district around the radio station and some police and security stations, according to the leader of FSA’s Nour al-Haq battalion, Wasel Ayyoub. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said that the “main” battle for Aleppo is “imminent.”

Elsewhere, the 193-nation UN General Assembly approved a Saudi-sponsored non-binding draft resolution expressing “concern” for the escalation of violence in Syria. There were 133 votes in favor of the resolution, 12 against, and 31 abstentions. The resolution condemned “the increasing use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters” and called on the Syrian regime to fulfill its promise to “withdraw its troops and heavy weapons to their barracks.” The resolution requested the formation of a “transitional council that governs by consensus” and that all parties cooperate with Arab and international envoy Kofi Annan to implement a transitional phase that paves the way for free elections.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “Moscow is very concerned about the dangerous development in Syria’s situation, the continued violence and the provocations intended to expand the conflict and its brutality,” stressing that “the Syrian civilians’ suffering keeps getting worse.” Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said in Moscow that President Assad’s departure will not solve the Syrian crisis. In a press conference at the Russian capital, Jamil said, “Let us assume that [the president] resigns. Then what? The [other] parties cannot even agree on starting a dialogue or sitting at the negotiating table.” He added that a dialogue should be opened to resolve the crisis politically. He noted that if Assad leaves, then there will be no party to negotiate with.

Jamil accused the US, which, like the Syrian opposition, insists on Assad’s departure, of lying. He said, “The West’s position is mendacious because it does not contribute to realizing the conditions for dialogue and does not want peace but rather continued bloodshed.”

Washington Post    August 10, 2012

How, when and whether to end the war in Syria
By Kenneth M. Pollack

 “The beginning of wisdom,” a Chinese saying goes, “is to call things by their right names.” And the right name for what is happening in Syria — and has been for more than a year — is an all-out civil war.

Syria is Lebanon of the 1970s and ’80s. It is Afghanistan, Congo or the Balkans of the 1990s. It is Iraq of 2005-2007. It is not an insurgency. It is not a rebellion. It is not Yemen. It is certainly not Egypt or Tunisia.

It is important to accept this simple fact, because civil wars — especially ethno-sectarian civil wars such as the one burning in Syria — both reflect and unleash powerful forces that constrain what can be done about them. These forces can’t be turned off or ignored; they must be dealt with directly if there is to be any chance of ending the conflict.

So, how do these kinds of wars end? Usually, in one of two ways: One side wins, typically in murderous fashion, or a third party intervenes with enough force to snuff out the fighting. Until Washington commits to either helping one side or leading an intervention in Syria, nothing else we do will make much difference. The history of civil wars — and of efforts to stop them — demonstrates what is likely to work and what is likely to fail.

Stop chasing mirages
At the top of the list of initiatives that rarely succeed in ending a civil war on their own is a negotiated settlement. The likelihood that this could work without force to impose or guarantee an accord is slight. It’s why Kofi Annan’s mission as the U.N.-Arab League envoy was always likely to fail and why, now that Annan has announced his resignation, the effort should be cast aside as a distraction.

It’s also why the Obama administration’s fixation on Russia’s supposed leverage with the Syrian regime and the idea of a Yemen-style solution in which President Bashar al-Assad steps down are equally misconceived. Assad is unlikely to step down, because — like Radovan Karadzic, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gaddafiand many others before him — he believes that his adversaries will kill him and his family if he does. And he is probably right.

Even if he did voluntarily leave office, his resignation or flight from Syria would probably be meaningless: The war is being led by Assad, but it is being waged by the country’s Alawite community and other minorities, who believe that they are fighting not just for their privileged place in Syrian society but for their lives. Were Assad to resign or flee, the most likely outcome would be for another Alawite leader to take his place and continue the fight.

The insistence that “Assad’s days are numbered” is not only probably incorrect, it is largely irrelevant. Throughout the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1991, there was always a man sitting in the Baabda Palace calling himself the president. And he had a military force that reported to him called the Lebanese Armed Forces. In truth, he was nothing more than a Maronite Christian warlord, and the remnants of the Lebanese Armed Forces had become nothing but a Maronite militia, yet the names persisted.

So Assad may not fall for some time, and he may continue to call himself the president of Syria. He may even be able to sit in an embattled Damascus, defended by a military formation still calling itself the Syrian Armed Forces. But that won’t make him anything more than the chief of a largely Alawite militia.

The dangers of picking winners
If the United States decides that it is in its interest to end the Syrian civil war, Washington could certainly decide to help one side win.

In effect, we’ve already done so. Not only has the Obama administration demanded that the Assad regime relinquish power, but numerous media reports say that the United States is providing limited covert support to the Syrian opposition. According to these reports, the aid is nonlethal — helping to vet fighters, providing some planning guidance.

What Washington has not done is give the opposition the kind of help that would allow it to prevail in short order. Right now, the standoff in Syria is about guns against numbers. The regime has a small pool of tanks, artillery, attack helicopters and other heavy weapons that allows it to beat back the opposition wherever such forces are committed. So whenever the opposition threatens something of great importance to Assad’s government — such as Damascus or Aleppo — the regime can stymie the attack. But the opposition’s numbers are growing, allowing it to take control of large swaths of territory that is of low priority to Assad.

Over time, and especially if its supply of replacements and spare parts from Iran and Russia can be choked off, the government’s stockpile of heavy weapons will diminish, and as the war becomes a contest of light infantry on both sides, the numbers of the opposition should begin to tip the balance.

The problem is that helping the opposition “win” might end up looking something like Afghanistan in 2001. Opposition forces may end up in control of most of the country, even Damascus, but the Alawites and their allies might be holed up in the mountains, continuing the fight. And as in Afghanistan, where the Northern Alliance held the Panjshir valleyfor years against the otherwise overwhelming force of the Taliban, so too might the Alawites be able to hold their mountainous homeland along Syria’s western coast for a long time.

The parallels are plentiful. The Syrian opposition is badly fragmented, with divisions within and between the political groups and fighting forces. In Afghanistan, after the Soviet departure in 1989, a similar situation was a recipe for internecine warfare. Indeed, the various mujaheddin groups fell to fighting one another even before the Soviet puppet regime of President Najibullah fell —allowing the regime to survive until the Taliban crushed Najibullah and the mujaheddin alike.

In Syria, the dominant force that might emerge from an opposition takeover could be the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The group, living for decades under persecution from the Shiite-dominated Syrian Baath Party, is a very different creature from the Brotherhood parties that have taken power in Egypt and Tunisia. It is an old, unreconstructed, hard-line, sectarian version — more like the Taliban.

For all of these reasons, an opposition victory could mean trading one regime of persecution and slaughter for another. All of this needs to be factored into any U.S. discussion of whether to help the rebels prevail.

If Washington does choose to intervene, however, there are ways to reduce these risks. First, America could start providing lethal assistance, particularly more advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to help kill off the regime’s heavy weapons faster and allow the opposition to prevail more quickly.

Even more important, the United States and its NATO allies could begin to provide military training for Syrian fighters. More competent opposition forces could better meet and defeat government troops. Such training would also help diminish the factionalism among the armed groups and bring greater discipline to the opposition, including in a postwar environment. Indeed, the American program to organize and train a Croatian (and Bosnian Muslim) army in the mid-1990s was crucial both to military victory in the Bosnian civil war and to fostering stability after the fighting.

Moreover, one of the best ways for the United States to influence a post-civil-war political process is to maximize its role in building the military that wins the war.

Ending a war vs. building a nation
Historically, the only real alternative to ending a civil war by picking a winner is for an outside force to suppress the warring groups and then build a stable political process that keeps the war from resuming. The military piece of this — shutting down the fighting — is relatively easy, as long as the intervening nation is willing to bring enough force and use the right tactics. The hard part is having the patience to build a new, functional political system. The Syrians in Lebanon, NATO in Bosnia, the Australians in East Timor and the Americans in Iraq demonstrate the possibilities and the pitfalls.

This course is typically the only way to end the violence without the mass slaughter of the losing side. It also can prevent fragmentation and an outbreak of fighting among the victors. If done right, it can even pave the way toward real democracy (as the United States started to do in Iraq before its withdrawal last year), which results in greater stability in the long run.

But it is not cheap, and it requires a long-term commitment of military force and political and economic assistance. The cost can be mitigated in a multilateral intervention such as in Bosnia and Kosovo, rather than a largely unilateral effort along the lines of the U.S. reconstructions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of Syria, that means the United States isn’t the only nation that needs to sign on; Turkish, European and Arab support matter as well.

Right now, there is absolutely no appetite in the United States for a Bosnia-style intervention in Syria. That is understandable. Unlike in Libya, the humanitarian disasters unfolding in Syria have not been enough to galvanize the United States to action. In addition, there is nothing intrinsically important there for U.S. vital interests. Syria does not have significant oil reserves, nor is it a major trading partner. It is not an ally and was never a democracy. If Syria were merely to self-immolate, it would be a tragedy for the Syrian people but extraneous to American interests.

However, if Syria’s civil war spills over into the rest of the Middle East, U.S. interests would be threatened. Civil wars often spread — through the flow of refu­gees, the spread of terrorism, the radicalization of neighboring populations, and the intervention and opportunism of neighboring powers — and Syria has all the hallmarks of a particularly bad case.

At its worst, spillover from a civil war in one country can cause a civil war in another or can metastasize into a regional war. Sectarian violence is already spreading from Syria; Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan are all fragile states susceptible to civil war, even without the risk of contagion. Turkey and Iran are mucking around in Syria, supporting different sides and demanding that others stop doing the same. Terrorism or increasing Iranian influence might pull even a reluctant Israel into the fray — just as terrorism and increasing Syrian dominance pulled Israel into the Lebanese civil war years ago.

This is what we must watch for. Spillover may force Washington to contemplate real solutions to the Syrian conflict, rather than indulge in frivolous sideshows. If that day comes, our choice will almost certainly be between picking a winner and leading a multilateral intervention.

Chances are we will start with the former, and if that fails to produce results, we will shift to the latter. That may seem far-fetched, but it is worth remembering that in 1991 there was virtually no one in the United States who supported an American-led multilateral intervention in Bosnia, and by 1995 the United States, under a Democratic administration, was doing just that.

Kenneth M. Pollack is a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of “A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East.”

Kurdistan Tribune / MESOP    October 22/23, 2012

Is Masud Barzani really a nationalist?
By Michael Rubin

Nationalist rhetoric is a staple of Iraqi Kurdish president Masud Barzani’s speeches and declarations. In 2006, he told an American journalist, “Having an independent state is the natural legitimate right of our people.” In January 2012, he told the BBC, “What I really wish is to see an independent Kurdistan.”

Against the backdrop of a political crisis with Baghdad, Barzani suggested a declaration of Kurdish independence could be imminent. “Power-sharing and partnership between Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and others is now completely non-existent and has become meaningless,” Barzani said during his Nowruz address last March. “It is time to say enough is enough,” he continued. “I call on all Iraqi political leaders to urgently try and find a solution otherwise we will return to our people and will decide on whatever course of action that our people deem appropriate.” Implicit in Barzani’s statement is the fact that, when polled, Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly favor independence.

The Kurdish people may embrace Kurdish nationalism but, despite his rhetoric, it is doubtful Masud Barzani does. Following his Nowruz address, Barzani traveled to Washington. Rather than show himself as president of Iraqi Kurdistan, he chose to bring his son and nephew into meetings, thereby showing himself to be concerned more with family. After the White House rebuffed his position on Kurdish claims to Iraq’s disputed territories, Barzani spent the rest of his trip promoting personal business.

Barzani’s behavior is the rule rather than the exception. However he might depict himself in Kurdistan, Masud Barzani is not known in Washington for nationalism. Just one year ago, on October 28, 2011, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified the U.S. Congress of an impending sale to Turkey of three AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters. The notification kicked in a 15-day period in which Congressional objections could block the transfer of the military equipment to Turkey. Rather than speak up, Barzani remained silent. Neither he nor the Kurdistan Regional Government representatives in Washington asked the White House or Congress to block the sale. Two months later, the Turks slaughtered at least 34 unarmed Kurds in the Roboski Massacre.

While Barzani is silent in the face of Turkish arms purchases, he has criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to purchase advanced aircraft from the United States and, more recently, weaponry from Russia and the Czech Republic. Once again, however, Barzani’s rhetoric rings hollow. After all, Hoshyar Zebari, Barzani’s uncle and Iraq’s Foreign Minister, traveled with Maliki to Moscow and helped negotiate the agreement. So too did Khairallah Hassan Babaker, Iraq’s Minister of Trade and a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Kurds may want a state, but Barzani’s actions suggest he does not. Barzani has yet to demand Turkish forces end their occupation of Amadia, Kani Masi, and other towns in Iraqi Kurdistan. Perhaps Barzani’s silence is understandable; to speak up might make his attendance at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s party conference awkward. Antagonizing Erdo?an might also complicate efforts to strike deals with Çalik Holdings, the Turkish firm whose chief executive officer is Berat Albayrak, Erdo?an’s son-in-law.

Both during my recent visit to Iraqi Kurdistan and in the United States, Kurds often ask whether the United States would ever support Kurdish independence. That question is premature. After all, why would the U.S. government support Kurdish independence when Masud Barzani’s actions show he does not?

Mosul Vilayet

This map was composed on the basis of those attached to the Report of the League of Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Mosul Vilayetof 16 July 1925 (15 MB); it is reproduced from: P.E.J.Bomli, "L'Affaire de Mossoul", H.J. Paris, Amsterdam 1929.  According to the Report by HM's Government to the League Council on the Administration of Iraq for the year 1929 (p.71), the 1920 census revealed:

Iraq's demography in 1920
vilayets  surface kmSunnites    Shiites    Jews   Christians   total
Baghdad     141227      524414      750421    62565     20771   1360304
Basra       138741       42558      721414    10088      2551     785600
Mosul        91009      579713       22180    14835     55470     703378
total       370977     1146685     1494015    87488     78792    2849282

Kurdistan Regional Government control objectives

SOURCE: Staff reports | By Mary Kate Cannistra |  The Washington Post - November 23, 2008

Map of the states under the French Mandate (1921-22) source: Wikipedia

Wikipedia lists the following states to have originally formed the Mandate territory: Greater Lebanon, State of Alawites, State of Jabal Druze, State of Aleppo, State of Damascus, Sanjak of Alexandretta, Al-Jazira province, and Golan Region. It quotes 2007 Syrian state sources for the following:

"The population of Syria is 74% Sunni, 12% Alawi, 10% Christian, and 3% Druze. Combined, some 90% of the Syrian population is Muslim, while the other 10% is Christian, which includes mainly Arab Christians but also Assyrians and Armenians. Major ethnic minorities in Syria include Kurds (9%), Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens and Circassians. The majority of the population is Arab (90%)."