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Is Iraq’s Kurdish region outside of ISIS’ calculus?

By , July 20, 2014 11:43 pm

Is Iraq’s Kurdish region outside of ISIS’ calculus?
By: Dina al-Shibee on: 21.07.2014 [05:51 ] (14 reads)

Is Iraq’s Kurdish region outside of ISIS’ calculus?

Dina al-Shibeeb, Al Arabiya News
Sunday, 20 July 2014

Iraqi Kurds have remained unscathed so far from any major assault by the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria not only because of their defensive force represented in the Peshmerga but also because of ISIS’ priority of toppling the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to analysts.

Initially, some observers believed that the lack of an overt confrontation between ISIS and Kurds in Iraq was due to some understanding between the two sides. In addition, Maliki accused the Kurdistan Regional Government of supporting ISIS.

“The loose alliance of insurgents is united by only one common objective: a desire to take Baghdad and topple Maliki’s regime, which they consider to be an Iranian proxy,” Ali Khedery, who was the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, told Al Arabiya News.

“They haven’t attacked Kurdistan because they don’t want to open a second front while they battle,” Khedery, who is now chairman and chief executive of the Dubai-based Dragoman Partners, added.

“I believe Maliki accused the Kurds of helping ISIS because he considers the entire Sunni Arab insurgency to be composed of ISIS. In reality, the forces fighting Maliki’s government are 5 to 10% ISIS, 20% Baathist elements, and 70-75% Sunni Arab tribal elements.”

Iraq’s late dictator President Saddam Hussein ruled the country under the socialist Baath Party from 1979 until he was toppled during the U.S. invasion of 2003.

“Since some of the Baathist and tribal leaders like Sheikh Ali Hatem and Ahmed Dabbash now have a base in Arbil KRG’s capital, Maliki believes there is a master conspiracy against him,” Khedery said.

Michael P. Pregent, a former U.S. Army officer who was an embedded advisor with Peshmerga forces in the cities of Mosul and Dahuk, described Maliki’s accusation as “false,” saying that the incumbent prime minister “is upset that the Kurds that they didn’t fight ISIS in Mosul,” which is still held by the militants since a lightning offensive by the radical group in June.

Pregent told Al Arabiya News that “the main reason ISIS isn’t fighting the Kurds in Iraq is because in Iraq the Kurds have a national border that they protect and man with checkpoints with well-armed Peshmerga tanks, artillery, heavy crew served weapons.”

Unlike the rest of Iraq and Syria, where the security situations are characterized by increasing deterioration, The Kurds have excelled at maintaining security to high levels.

The Kurds in Iraq know who comes in and who comes out of their territory,” Pregent, who is now an adjunct lecturer at the National Defense University, College of International Security Affairs in Washington, said.

“They have a very experienced and disciplined Peshmerga militia that will protect Kurdish areas and interests,” he added, highlighting how “Sunnis, Christians, and even Shiites go to Kurdistan to escape violence in Iraq because they know the Kurdish areas are well protected.”

Like Khedery, who pointed to ISIS’s political agenda to topple Maliki’s administration, Pregent believes that the premier’s disenfranchisement of the Sunnis led to a fertile ground for ISIS to operate in.

“ISIS’ success depends on an oppressive Shiite government that marginalizes Sunnis in both Syria and Iraq – ISIS will not gain supporters in Kurdish areas because the Kurds are already protecting their areas from Maliki’s oppressive government,” the former army officer said.
Alliance with Arab tribes

Kirkuk-based strategic analyst Abdulrahman al-Sheikh described how Sunni Arab tribes in Kirkuk are paramount in fending off the ISIS threat from creeping into Kirkuk as they enjoy the respect of both the Peshmerga and radical Islamists.

“There are strong ties between Kurds and the Sunni Arab tribes in Kirkuk, so the fears are less in comparison to the ISIS-held Tikrit,” Sheikh said.

On Wednesday, Iraq state forces, facing heavy opposition, withdrew from the northern city of Tikrit after a renewed effort to take back Saddam’s hometown.

In spite of KRG’s strengths, there were clashes on Thursday between ISIS and Peshmerga forces 20 kilometers south of Kirkuk.

“This was an attempt to provoke the Peshmerga,” said Sheikh, “but respected Arab tribes intervened to end the skirmish.”

While Pregent expects that there will be fighting “in areas not traditionally under Kurdish control,” he said “so far we haven’t seen any incursions into recognized Kurdish areas.” (en) RSS feed for articles and news

Fighting in North Iraq to delay return of region oil exports

By , June 25, 2014 6:44 pm

Please any Questions: send to I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

Kurdistan Region: Business Workshop in London

By , June 25, 2014 12:49 am

Kurdistan Region: Business Workshop in London

The Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation has announced that British Expertise will host a workshop on doing business in Kurdistan on 8th July, in advance of its trade mission to Erbil and Dohuk in September.

This special workshop includes case studies from companies that have undertaken or won projects in Kurdistan.

Lyn Edwards, Senior Partner at GMW Architects will discuss his experience of undertaking projects in the market and Prasad Godbole of Pioneer Healthcare will give an overview of the company’s remarkable work on the Kurdistan Children’s Hospital. John Downe of Azure will give an entrepreneur’s view on working in the Kurdistan Region.

Delegates will be joined by, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdistan Regional Government High Representative to the UK, Nawal Karim, Director of Trade and Investment Relations at the KRG UK Representation, and Former British Consul General in Erbil Chris Bowers, who will provide an overview of the current political and economic situation in Kurdistan, and how natural resources will drive future interest and development.

For more information on the event and to register your attendance please click here.

Iraq Business News

Amid Turmoil, Iraq’s Kurdish Region is Laying Foundation for Independence

By , June 13, 2014 3:57 am

Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces secure an area in Kirkuk city, northern Iraq, 12 June 2014. Kurdish forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region have taken complete control over the disputed city of Kirkuk after the Iraqi army withdrew from there, a Kurdish military spokesman was cited as saying (Khalil Al-A’nei/EPA).ANKARA — As security forces in northern Iraq crumble under the onslaught of Islamist militants, the autonomous Kurdistan region — a bastion of stability — is rapidly laying the groundwork to become an independent state.

Iraqi forces have continued to cede territory to an insurgency led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is swiftly advancing toward Baghdad after capturing Mosul on Tuesday. Kurdistan’s military forces, known as the pesh merga (or “those who face death”), have taken over many of the northernmost positions abandoned by the national army, significantly expanding the zone of Kurdish control.

“As the Iraqi Army has abandoned its posts .?.?. Peshmerga reinforcements have been dispatched to fill their places,” Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the Ministry of Pesh Merga Affairs, said in a statement.

The Kurds have also recently taken a big step toward economic independence by deepening a strategic alliance with the Turkish government. In late May, they began exporting oil via a pipeline through Turkey, with the revenue set to flow into a Kurdish-controlled bank account rather than the Iraqi treasury.

“This economic independence is vital for the Kurdistan region,” Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said in an address to the Kurdish parliament last month. “We will not stop here.”

Strained relations

Since the beginning of the year, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has responded to Kurdish oil ambitions by cutting the monthly distribution of the region’s share of the national budget. The Iraqi government has also filed an international arbitration claim against Turkey for facilitating the exports, which Baghdad characterizes as smuggling, and has threatened to sue anyone who buys the oil.

With relations badly strained, there is little appetite in the Kurdish capital of Irbil to provide any military support to Maliki.

“The Iraqi government has been holding the Kurds hostage, and it’s not reasonable for them to expect the Kurds to give them any help in this situation without compromising to Kurdish demands,” said an adviser to the Kurdish government, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

The pesh merga say they have not tried to displace ISIS from territory it now controls.

“In most places, we aren’t bothering them [ISIS], and they aren’t bothering us — or the civilians,” said Lt. Gen. Shaukur Zibari, a pesh merga commander.

Ethno-religious map of Iraq.

In his statement, Yawar said, “There is no need for Peshmerga forces to move into these areas.”

The United States has tried for several years to broker agreements to bring Irbil and Baghdad closer together, but the efforts have failed because the two sides have fundamentally different visions for the country. Whereas Maliki has pushed for centralized control — especially over the oil resources that provide 95 percent of state revenue — the Kurds have insisted that the constitution grants them almost total autonomy.

The conflict has been so tense recently that Kurdish leaders have obliquely suggested that, absent concessions from Maliki, they will hold a referendum on whether to declare independence — a measure that would almost certainly pass amid an upswell of Kurdish nationalism.

“The policy of the Kurdistan Regional Government is to never take a step backward,” Barzani said in his address to parliament. “If we do not arrive at any resolutions [with Baghdad], then we have other alternatives, and we will take them.”

Tensions have also been aggravated through the years by territorial disputes. In the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which waged campaigns of ethnic cleansing, ethnic groups have made competing claims to a belt of land stretching across the country as the formal boundary between the Kurdistan region and federal Iraq remains unresolved.

The symbolic heart of these disputes has been the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which some have called the Jerusalem of the Kurds. On Thursday, after the national army left, Kurdish flags were flying where Iraqi flags once were, and Yawar said Kurdish forces “now control Kirkuk city and the surrounding areas.” Even Iraqi government oil facilities were now being guarded by Kurdish forces, Kurdish security officials said.

Turkish lifeline

As the Kurds try to shore up their territory, they also need an economic lifeline, and they have turned to Turkey. Last year, the landlocked Kurds built an oil pipeline to the Turkish border and signed agreements to govern the export of oil and gas to the Mediterranean; now, crude has begun to flow.

Those exports, which began May 22, were a milestone. Although the Kurds have been able to export oil for years by truck, only a pipeline can enable them to sell enough oil to replace the revenue being withheld by Baghdad.

In the meantime, the Kurdish government is staying solvent through loans from companies and foreign banks, according to Barzani. Two officials involved in the Turkey deal, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said the Turkish government had granted a loan directly to the Kurds, but they did not disclose the amount or the terms.

Turkey’s willingness to facilitate such autonomy marks a dramatic reversal by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose administration once worried that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan might inspire Turkey’s own Kurdish minority to seek a similar outcome. Erdogan was swayed, ultimately, by a convergence of interests, particularly Turkey’s growing energy demands. Now, with the rise of ISIS, Iraqi Kurdistan also represents a geographic buffer between Turkey and the chaotic violence to the south.

“Turkey will use its influence in Irbil to discourage independence,” said one of the Turkish officials involved in the energy deal. “But if Kurdistan should become independent, then, to put it in financial terms, Turkey has bought that option.”

The question now facing the Kurds is whether they can hold the line against ISIS. The group has begun attacking some of the pesh merga’s forward positions and nearly killed the leader of the force, Sheik Jaafar Mustafa, with an IED targeting his convoy near Kirkuk, according to a pesh merga soldier stationed there.

So far, the pesh merga have been able to repel ISIS attacks, and the Kurdistan region seems to have the military capability — and the backing of a powerful neighbor — to succeed without the federal government.

Drawn to this relative stability, tens of thousands from besieged Mosul have sought refuge in the region. Among them were three top Iraqi generals; on Thursday, the Kurdish government put them on a plane to Baghdad.

Loveday Morris in Irbil contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

UN to Iraq leave dispute between central government and Kurdistan Region

By , June 7, 2014 12:23 am

Please any Questions: send to I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

DHL Iraq “Best Employer in the Region”

By , June 1, 2014 12:28 pm

DHL Iraq “Best Employer in the Region”

By John Lee.

Logistics company DHL Iraq has won the title of best employer organisation in the region, according to a study by human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

GulfNews reports that DHL Iraq performed well in terms of employee engagement, leadership effectiveness, branding, business performance, talent management effectiveness and diversity and inclusion.

The study was conducted in 12 countries in the Middle East and Africa and had the participation of 88 organisations from a range of sectors, ownership structures, size and number of years of business operations.

(Source: GulfNews)

Iraq Business News

ISIL Recruiting Syrian Children to Defend Seized Region

By , May 10, 2014 9:53 pm

ISIL Recruiting Syrian Children to Defend Seized Region

Posted 2014-05-11 01:52 GMT

TEHRAN — An Internet-based social media account that supports the Al-Qaeda-linked splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) publicized a bid to recruit minors as armed insurgents in Syria’s Aleppo province. The Twitter account this week published a photo of young boys standing in front of a “membership office” for the terrorist group in the town of Al-Bab, The Daily Star reported on Saturday.

ISIL has occasionally been accused of recruiting underage boys into its ranks.

While ISIL has lost much of the territory it controlled in Aleppo province in the wake of a campaign against it since January by its Al-Qaeda rival, the al-Nusra Front, and an array of other foreign-backed insurgent groups, it continues to hold on to Al-Bab, near the Turkish border.

Britain-based opposition group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Friday that the ISIL insurgents were engaged in fierce fighting against the alliance of armed rebels in the village of Abla in Northern rural Aleppo, in the latest bid to retake Al-Bab from ISIL.

The same Twitter account posted a photo of what it claimed to be a tank captured by ISIL, claiming that it was being used to attack rival insurgents.

Assyrian International News Agency

Crimea Leader Says Won’t Allow Fascism in Region

By , May 8, 2014 3:09 pm

Crimea Leader Says Won’t Allow Fascism in Region
By: RIA Novosti on: 08.05.2014 [11:53 ] (104 reads)

12:40 08/05/2014

Crimean authorities will not allow a “revival of fascism” in the region ahead of Victory Day on May 9, Crimea’s acting head Sergei Aksyonov said in a post on his Facebook page Thursday.

“We will not allow the re-evaluation of the Great history of 1941-1945, the revival of fascism. Our strong and flourishing Russia, the beloved Crimea, was and will remain a grand monument to our heroes,” he wrote.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a low providing for a jail term of up to 5 years as punishment for the rehabilitation of fascism, spreading false information about the Soviet Union’s actions during World War II, and the denial of facts stated in the Nuremberg trials, which punished Nazi leaders after the war.

Crimea, previously an autonomous republic within Ukraine, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev which seized power as a result of a coup in February, instead rejoining Russia following a secession referendum.

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The rise of stock markets in the Gulf region

By , May 6, 2014 10:13 am

Please any Questions: send to I will get to your questions as soon as possible by personal e-mail, blog post or audio “If you Knew you could not fail, what would you try today?” Philippians 4:13

Kurdish Official Outlines Vision for Turkish Kurdistan Region

By , May 1, 2014 9:51 am

Turkish soldiers patrol a road near Yuksekova in southeastern Turkey, bordering Iraq, Dec. 24, 2007 (photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal).The Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) deputy co-chairman in charge of local administrations, Demir Celik, has outlined the roadmap to Kurdish autonomy. Here is how he describes the milestones in an intriguing interview with Taraf’s Tugba Tekerek:

“A free, autonomous Kurdistan should be bound to Ankara in terms of finance and diplomacy (or foreign policy). Yet, it should be able to make its own economic decisions,” Celik said. “‘Self-defense’ is a major aspect of autonomy. Autonomous Kurdistan will have its own ‘police’ and ‘municipal police.’ We are not there yet, but our people are on watch against [the construction of] fortified military posts. And this is, no doubt, self-defense.”

“We will open Kurdish-language nurseries and kindergartens. Children are not supposed to learn Turkish before they can speak Kurdish. The Turkish language will be taught in secondary school, along with Kurdish.”

“Autonomous Kurdistan will have its own flag. Turkey has many autonomous institutions with their own symbols and flags, which they display alongside the Turkish national flag. Turkey is not breaking up. It’s meaningless to be fearful of us. The Turkish flag belongs to us all. If Turkey is to be divided into 25 regions, let those regions hoist their own flags alongside the Turkish flag. We’ll be only proud to do that. But to insist on things like ‘Not your flag, but only mine’ amounts to denying our existence. It is unacceptable.”

“The autonomous region should provide not only Kurdish-language education, but also health services.”

“A regional parliament is not part of the discussions [with Ankara]. Yet, we have already set up the congress that would function as a regional parliament (the Democratic Society Congress).”

“The question of the regional administration’s capital: … We have deferred it to the negotiation stage as well.”

“We are setting up self-administration organs through which the people will govern themselves, that is, village and street communes, neighborhood assemblies and town assemblies. There are already beekeeping communes in eight villages in Yuksekova, which have set up cooperatives embracing all villagers.”

“We will apply to establish a university. We have already bought the plot and formed the board of trustees. If Fethullah Gulen’s Selahaddin Eyyubi University gets a permission, we will seek one, too. The university will offer courses in all the languages of Kurdistan (Kurdish, Arabic, Persian, Azeri, etc.).”

Even though only a “Kurdistan Autonomous Region” is being described above, one has to take up the issue from a wider “regions” perspective that encompasses the whole of Turkey.

According to Celik, Turkey has 26 watery regions, which could become the centers of as many autonomous administrations. He points to Syria’s [mainly Kurdish] Rojava region as an example. Yet, he mentions Switzerland as the ideal model. Switzerland, however, is a confederation built on much looser bonds compared with a federation.

So, is this a fiat?

According to Celik, the territory of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region would be determined through referendums in the related provinces in southeast Turkey. Those who refuse to join would be bound directly to the central democratic republic.

So, the way is being paved for a governance structure that goes well beyond autonomy.

Meanwhile, PKK militants have started to block traffic and kidnap men in uniform. Roads are being blocked to thwart the construction of fortified military outposts, clashes are breaking out with the security forces and earth-moving machines and trucks are being obstructed from working. (Celik’s self-defense forces are on watch!)

In the meantime, families are holding protests for 14 and 15-year-olds taken away by the PKK to the mountains, which, by the way, is an encouraging sign in terms of a democratic solution.

To put it succinctly, while Turkey is busy debating whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will become president, others are moving forward.

Translated by Sibel Utku Bila.

Assyrian International News Agency