iraq (36)

President Barzani Congratulates New Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi

Kurdistan region President Masoud Barzani called Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi today to congratulate him as the new Prime Minister of Iraq and wished him success.

In their telephone conversation, they discussed the unanimous decision by Kurdistan’s political sides to participate in the new government, and both sides emphasized the need for all parties to work together to save the country from the current security and political crises.

They both concurred that there is a good opportunity for joint work to ensure that the mistakes of the previous government are not repeated, and that the conditions and demands of the Kurdish side are met. They also agreed to work together to restore stability in the country and defeat terrorists.





The Kurdish forces facing the Islamic State need help from the United States

Washington Post Editorial Board

A NEW humanitarian and security crisis has erupted in northern Iraq, where the al-Qaeda-derived Islamic State borders territories controlled by Iraqi and Syrian Kurds. Since last weekend, tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped on a mountainside near the Iraqi town of Sinjar, which was captured by Islamic State fighters. The refugees, including an estimated 25,000 children, lack supplies of food and water and could perish in a matter of days unless a relief corridor is opened, according to the United Nations. Meanwhile, the extremist forces are threatening to capture Iraq’s two largest dams and are pressing toward Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Both the potential human cost and the threat to U.S. interests are vastly greater than in the Gaza Strip, which has consumed the attention of Secretary of State John F. Kerry and senior White House officials in recent weeks. An Iraqi minority group concentrated in the contested area, the Yazidis, is facing nothing less than genocide at the hands of the Islamic State, which considers the sect heretical. Meanwhile, the strongest and most reliable U.S. ally remaining in the region, the Kurdistan government, is struggling to hold the line against Islamic State forces.

The Obama administration’s response to this emergency, however, has been listless. U.S. officials have reportedly authorized the direct supply of munitions to Kurdish forces, which have been attempting to retake Sinjar, and have coordinated attacks by the Iraqi air force against Islamic State targets. It has also pushed the Iraqi government to carry out a humanitarian air drop in the area where the Yazidi refugees are stranded, though the operation achieved only limited results, according to a report by The Post’s Loveday Morris.

Kurdish forces still suffer from the warped and outdated U.S. policy toward Iraq, which prioritizes maintaining a strong central government in Baghdad over aiding the secular, democratic and pro-Western Kurds. A Kurdish delegation that visited Washington last month seeking direct military aid to fight the Islamic State was rebuffed. Administration officials contend they cannot act without the consent and cooperation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, even though his sectarian policies are largely responsible for returning the country to civil war.

President Obama dispatched some 800 U.S. personnel to Iraq earlier this summer in order to evaluate the Islamic State threat, protect the U.S. embassy and coordinate assistance. But the administration has refrained from major new aid initiatives or U.S. military action, saying that it first wants to see the formation of a broadly representative Iraqi government. That goal may not be achievable in the near future, or ever; meanwhile, the extremist Islamist forces continue to advance, both in Iraq and Syria.

Mr. Obama is right to deny new support to the Iraqi government as long as the toxic Mr. Maliki remains in office. But it can and should act immediately to address the humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq and to further support Kurdish forces, which face the Islamic state along a 600-mile border. If the Iraqi airlift of supplies to the stranded Yazidis is ineffective, the United States should consider other action to save the refugees. It also should supply Kurds with the heavy weapons they have requested and, if necessary, use U.S. air power to stop the Islamic State forces from advancing further.





America has ‘moral responsibility’ to intervene in Iraq, says Iraqi Kurdish foreign minister

By Mick Krever and Ken Olshansky, CNN

The foreign minister of Iraqi Kurdistan on Wednesday issued a desperate plea for American and Western intervention to halt the advance of ISIS extremists.

“We are left alone in the front to fight the terrorists of ISIS,” Falah Mustafa Bakir told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour.

“I believe the United States has a moral responsibility to support us, because this is a fight against terrorism, and we have proven to be pro-democracy, pro-West, and pro-secularism.”

While much of the world's attention has recently been focused on Gaza, ISIS has been sweeping across northern Iraq.

Over the weekend, ISIS forces captured a string of towns controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who, after the near-collapse of the Iraqi army in June, have been seen as the only force capable of confronting ISIS.

Bakir said that Kurdish forces have started to reverse the defensive tack they were forced to take over the weekend.

“This is something way beyond the capacity of the Iraqi air forces. We need the United States and NATO to interfere because we are fighting on behalf of all those who are against terrorism.”

“The U.S. troops have left; the six Iraqi divisions have disappeared. Now it’s only the Peshmerga forces facing these terrorist groups, who have captured all these advanced and sophisticated weaponry from the Iraqi army.”
“And the irony is that we are using outdated, Russian weapons, and the terrorists are using sophisticated and advanced American weapons against us.”
Among the towns captured was Sinjar, home to many Yazidi, a small religious sect whose members are particular targets for the Sunni extremists of ISIS.

Thousands fled with barely any supplies, many into nearby mountains where they're stranded and surrounded by the extremists. They face starvation and dehydration.

While the United States has said it is “actively monitoring the situation” and is providing assistance to the Peshmerga, there seems to be no appetite for a more substantive American intervention in Iraq.

“We have listened to [people] supporting our experience, supporting us. This is now time for action.”

“We have made some progress and we will continue. We are determined in order to take all the areas that have been taken by ISIS back. But we need support, and that support would be in way of airstrikes but also weapons and ammunition.”

“This is a terrorist organization that has declared the war on all those who are against them. So therefore it’s not only the responsibility of Kurdistan. If we are not able to stop them here, they would continue and pose a threat to other countries as well.”


CNN Link 





Kurdistan Region President Meets Iraq Parliament Speaker

Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq ( – Kurdistan Region President met with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama Nujeifi in Erbil on Thursday. The two discussed political and security developments in the country, as well as the election process and political prospects for the country after this election.

They both agreed that once the final election results are announced by the Interdependent High Electoral Commission, talks should commence between all sides to rescue the country from its political crises.





Iraq: the good news

Stephen Bleach - Published: 9 March 2014

The Sunday Times

As tourism slogans go, "Come to sunny Iraq!" is problematic, but Britain's biggest adventure travel company is inviting you to do just that. Well, to come to part of Iraq, anyway. New group tours from Explore avoid the violence-torn south and stick to Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous northern region that's been relatively peaceful for 10 years now. Even the cautious Foreign and Commonwealth Office has given it the all-clear.

So, does Iraqi Kurdistan have much to offer, beyond the undeniable frisson of a destination where the first road sign from the airport points to Baghdad?

First impressions aren't great. The flash new airport at Erbil is served by direct flights from several European cities, so no nerve-jangling touchdowns in Iraq proper -- but, cashed up by an oil boom, the Kurds are busily covering their capital with buildings of outstanding hideousness. The citadel has a claim to be the oldest inhabited town on earth (8,000 years, give or take), but endless restoration work means it's mostly closed.

Fortunately, they've repaired the roads too, so it's easy to move on to the countryside, where things improve immeasurably. The Iraq we know from news footage is a dusty, barren place, but as we head east in a minivan, a very different landscape opens up. Go before June, and the lowlands are painted an intense green by spring grass; further on, snow-capped mountains rear up and wildflowers dot the meadows of the valley floor.

The place is relaxed and safe, so you can stop, stroll and picnic where you like. Be ready to drink a lot of tea, though. Perhaps because western travellers are so rare -- outside Erbil, I didn't see a single one -- the hospitality is overwhelming.

Local students invite me to join their picnic -- a few yards from the minefield We pull up in a remote village in the Zhilwan mountains and are instantly invited into a home for chai and nibbles. Zuhri Rachid has an infectious laugh, seven daughters, one son, two cows, an unknown number of chickens and one hell of a view over the peaks from her parlour. The children show us round the house: animals below, people on the first floor, mud roof above.

We sit cross-legged and chat over chai and bowls of nuts. She is happy, she says -- apart from one thing. The neighbours look down on traditional stone houses like hers, but her husband won't build a more prestigious concrete one.

"We are poor, and it's too expensive," says Sadiq Ibrahim. "Stop nagging, or I'll get another wife."

"You couldn't get another wife," says Zuhri, "because nobody will marry you unless you build a concrete house!"

Their bantering good humour is all the more striking given their past. During Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s, their village was repeatedly bombed and gassed. "We fled to Iran," says Zuhri, suddenly sombre. "It took three days, walking over the mountains. It was winter, so cold, and I had my baby on my back." And then, in a flash, the smile is back, the teapot is proffered and we're talking about the price of sheep.

Everyone you meet has a story like this -- and you meet a lot of people. Staying in three different towns, and visiting buckets of sights in eight days, the tour is just short of whistle-stop. It takes in Sulaymaniyah, the laid-back, arty second city, where intellectuals sip tea in chaikhanas, discuss literature and folklore -- and tell tales of the Amna Suraka, or red building, the torture centre on the outskirts of town used by Saddam's secret police. You can look round the ugly, nondescript compound if you want to. Inside, things happened that are by some measure worse than I'd ever imagined.

The tour zips up to beauty spots in the north, and the shrines of religious minorities: the ancient Christian monastery at Alqosh, on crags overlooking the Biblical plains of Nineveh -- once shelled by Saddam's forces, who believed it was a hideout for Kurdish guerillas; and fascinating Lalish, world centre of the Yazidi religion, where local students invited me to join their picnic, a few yards from the minefield laid by Saddam's troops.

By the bye, one of the boons of historic sites here is that you won't have to endure a bored guide running through a list of facts. That's because there aren't any trained guides and there aren't any established facts. What guides exist cut their teeth working as translators for the American military, who were less interested in the date a monument was built than in how many insurgents might be hiding behind it. And in any case, Kurdistan's wealth of archeology is woefully poorly researched. You have to soak up the air of antiquity and fill in the blanks yourself. It's sightseeing as a creative process.

The most poignant stop is Halabja, a little country town sitting in a beautiful, mountain-fringed valley. It's a thriving place: in the market, butchers' shops are festooned with obscure animal parts, greengrocers' stalls burst with fruit and throngs of maty locals, clad in the billowing Kurdish sharwal trousers, chat in the sunshine. Everyone offers tea. Many want to practise their English, which elsewhere is code for "rope you into an elaborate con", but here means just what it says. There is no hassle. Nobody even tried to sell me anything. They're just too polite.

Friendly, scenic, lively... you'd like the place. It's hard not to. But if the name seems familiar, it's because Halabja was the site of the most notorious war crime of recent history. An estimated 5,000 people, mostly women and children, died when Saddam's air force dropped chemical weapons here in March 1988.

Mohammed Saeed was six at the time, and he tells us his story as he shows us round the memorial museum outside town. The gas smelled sweet -- like apples, he says. He survived, a bewildered boy holding his one-year-old sister as the rest of his family died. When you look at the photos of victims, taken hours after the attack, you'll cry. Everyone does.

And then, like the Kurds themselves, you'll move on. Confident, go-ahead, tragic Halabja is a microcosm of the contradictions of Kurdistan. It certainly doesn't make for an easy holiday: few outstanding sights, no beaches to laze on. But the human story here is compelling, and finally we can witness it at first hand. This is where the history of our times has been made, and the Kurds are trying to give it a happy ending. It's a messy process, and it isn't finished yet, but watching it happen is a joy.





Jalal Talabani’s death report denied

A recent report of the death of the Iraqi Kurdish President Jalal Talabani was denied. 

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