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Tag: Kurds


Iraq Has A New Government. Now What?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 04, 2018— The country has faced uncertainty and protests since elections in May. In September, a Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament was finally chosen.

Murders of Four Trailblazing Iraqi Women Spark Fear of Traditionalist Backlash: Ammar Karim, Times of Israel, Oct. 2, 2018— Over the last few weeks, four go-getting Iraqi women have separately met premature deaths — two falling victim to men firing automatic weapons into their vehicles.

Despite Independence Referendum, Kurds Lack Clout, International Backing to Carve Out Own State: Carlo Muñoz, Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2018— President Trump caused a stir across the Middle East last week with his lavish praise for the Kurds’ role in defeating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria…

Kurds Remain First in Iran’s Firing Line: Ben Cohen, JNS, Sept.14, 2018— Iran’s regime is defying the newly found U.S. resolve to counter its malign influence with whatever means it has at its disposal.

On Topic Links

Iraq’s New Leaders Seen as Technocrats, in a Break From Sectarian Politics: Ben Hubbard and Falih Hassan, New York Times, Oct. 2, 2018

Assassination of Iraq’s Feminists: Beauty Queen Flees to Jordan After Threat, String of Deaths: National Post, Oct. 9, 2018

A Strong Kurdistan Region is Good for US in Iraq: Seth J. Frantzman, The Hill, Oct. 16, 2018

It is Time for the U.S. to Help Liberate the Kurds: Qanta Ahmed, Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2018


                              IRAQ HAS A NEW GOVERNMENT. NOW WHAT?                                                                                     Seth Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 04, 2018


The country has faced uncertainty and protests since elections in May. In September, a Sunni Arab Speaker of Parliament was finally chosen. On Tuesday, Barham Salih, a Kurdish member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party, was selected to become the new president. Now Adel Abdul Mahdi will likely become the next prime minister as he seeks to shore up a coalition.

Abdul Mahdi has a difficult task ahead of him. In Iraq, the prime minister holds the most important and powerful post. The presidency, held by Kurdish leaders since the creation of a new constitution after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, is largely ceremonial.

However, many Iraqis celebrated the appointment of Salih, who previously served as deputy-prime minister and was a prime minister of the autonomous Kurdistan Region from 2009-2012. Salih was chosen after the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and PUK struggled to settle on a single Kurdish choice for the presidency. His election has been positively received in Washington, from where anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk tweeted congratulations. Salih is seen as being close to the UK and US.

Iraq is at a crossroads. Having liberated most of the country from ISIS last year, it is now in the midst of US-Iran tensions. The Kurdistan region in northern Iraq voted for independence last year. But Baghdad, under former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, sent tanks into Kirkuk to push the Kurds out and closed airports in the north to punish the autonomous region.

Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have continued their entrenchment in the country in 2018. In May, Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shi’ite cleric who was once anti-American but has become increasingly nationalist and hostile to Iran, polled first in the elections, ahead of second-place Hadi al-Amiri, head of one of the largest militias. Abadi, who Washington hoped would be a strongman savior of Iraq, came in third.

Now Abadi has congratulated Abdul Mahdi and appears willing to go quietly into the shadows. He graciously exited with a tweet, wishing the new prime minister “success in shaping and choosing who best to fill the government.”

Abdul Mahdi is seen as a pragmatist who will focus on the country’s economy. Since May, massive protests fueled by anger at failed infrastructure and polluted water, have swept southern Iraq. These protests have become increasingly anti-Iranian. Abdul Mahdi will be called upon to thread the needle between Iran’s interests, Washington’s and Iraq’s new connections to Saudi Arabia, and a multiplicity of other problems. For instance, Turkish troops are stationed in northern Iraq fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party, and last month Iran fired ballistic missiles at Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.

Iran has also fired missiles over Iraq at Syria, apparently without informing Iraqi authorities. This makes Baghdad feel that Iraq lacks basic sovereignty. Supporters of Abdul Mahdi see him as less ideological than other candidates for the job. He was once a secular communist, but later become a supporter of Iran’s Islamic revolution.

What does this mean for Iraq in general? Can Abdul Mahdi manage the security forces and rein in the militias? Can he bring in the donors to support rebuilding Mosul and other former ISIS-held cities? Can he use the security forces, who have suffered attrition over the years, to defeat a new ISIS insurgency? Iraq faces major hurdles. For the moment many are hopeful that the new president and his team can help heal wounds and bring the country some momentary peace after decades of conflict.






                                                         Ammar Karim                                                                                                                                Times of Israel, Oct. 2, 2018

Over the last few weeks, four go-getting Iraqi women have separately met premature deaths — two falling victim to men firing automatic weapons into their vehicles. The deaths have sparked fear among women who dare to break the mold and visibly achieve in the conservative country.

The latest to die was 22-year-old social media influencer and model Tara Fares. Her bloody demise at the wheel of a white Porsche convertible in Baghdad on Thursday has sparked as much debate as her racy photos. Fares had built an Instagram following of 2.7 million people thanks to edgy fashion shoots, assertive missives, and eye-catching, colorful hairstyles. She also posted publicly about a violent ex-husband and a fiance who died after being attacked in Istanbul.

But while Fares’ fearless embrace of social media inspired many young Iraqis, it upset traditionalists. Fares was the target of a deluge of online insults over her perceived lack of modesty, in a society where many adhere to hardline interpretations of Islam. It was this darker side of online platforms that forced the outspoken Fares to quit living in her native Baghdad and spend much of her time in comparatively liberal, secular Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fares is not the only Iraqi fashion and beauty entrepreneur to have met her death in recent weeks. In August, the managers of Baghdad’s two most high-profile aesthetic and plastic surgery centers died in mysterious circumstances. The first was Rafif al-Yassiri, whose nickname was Barbie — the same name as her business venture. A week later Rasha al-Hassan, founder of the Viola Beauty Center, was also found dead. Both were found at their homes, and despite ongoing investigations, the causes of their deaths remain undetermined.

But the rumor mill has churned up plenty of theories: Drugs, heart attacks, and murder. On Tuesday this week, two days before Fares was shot dead, came the first officially confirmed murder among the spate of suspicious deaths. In circumstances that foreshadowed the social media star’s assassination, activist and businesswoman Soad al-Ali was shot several times while travelling in a car in the southern city of Basra. Police opened an investigation and pointed the finger at her ex-husband, who is on the run.

While motivations for the two confirmed murders are far from officially established, women’s rights group Amal is deeply concerned. “Armed groups, tribes, criminal gangs… all these control positions” within the state and security forces, Hanae Edwar told AFP at the NGO’s Baghdad office. The recent assassinations are “threatening messages sent to activists in particular, but also to the whole of society,” she said. “Attacking women who are public figures is a bid to force them to shut themselves away at home,” Edwar added.

The authorities have tried to distance themselves from the deaths and provide reassurance. But Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared to draw a link between the events in Baghdad and Basra, ordering elite intelligence units to investigate.

In a statement, Abadi cited “evidence suggesting that there is a plan formulated by organized parties to undermine security under the pretext of fighting against depravity.” Safaa Nasser, a stylist speaking under an assumed name who until recently organised fashion shows, said she had already changed her behavior. “The last few days, my daughters and I go out less and I stay away from the fashion world,” she said. “There are people who don’t want Iraq to develop, or for women to be visible. They want to take us backwards.”

She urged security forces to investigate the deaths, saying an “organized network” was behind the “premeditated” actions. “The women I know are saying that their turn will come” to be targeted,” she said. Chillingly, Fares, Yassiri, and Hassan all died on Thursdays. “Every time, this repeats itself,” said 29-year-old Hawa Walid, shopping in Baghdad. “Now, every Thursday, the stress rises.”




                                                          Carlo Muñoz

                                                Washington Times, Oct. 3, 2018


President Trump caused a stir across the Middle East last week with his lavish praise for the Kurds’ role in defeating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but just over a year after Iraqi Kurdistan’s ill-fated independence referendum, the Kurds remain even further from statehood in Iraq while the situation for their ethnic counterparts across the region continues to falter.

At a press conference during his week of diplomacy at the U.N. General Assembly last week, Mr. Trump praised Iraq’s Kurds for the prominent role they played in ousting the Islamic State from the country’s north. He pledged Washington’s support for Iraqi Kurdistan as Baghdad cobbles together a unity government. “We do get along great with the Kurds. We’re trying to help them a lot. Don’t forget, that’s their territory. We have to help them,” Mr. Trump said in response to a question from a Kurdish reporter. “I want to help them.”

But the president’s gratitude is running up against the realities of the Middle East, where the Kurds form a significant minority in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey but lack the clout and international backing to carve out a state of their own — despite their outsized contribution to the U.S.-led war on terror groups in the region.

Officials from the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State said Tuesday that top commanders are in regular contact with their government counterparts in Iraqi Kurdistan and military partners in the Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga. “We’re in contact with them almost daily … and told them that we’re here to support [them], and that’s what we plan on doing,” Col. Sean Ryan, coalition spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon in a briefing from Baghdad.

U.S. and allied commanders battling Islamic State have repeatedly included their Kurdish counterparts in large-scale operations designed to prevent the terrorist group from re-emerging in northern Iraq, Col. Ryan said. U.S. military advisers are also looking to strengthen ties between the peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces and working to create a joint command center to integrate and streamline counterterrorism and security operations by both forces, he said.

But the Sept. 25, 2017, Kurdish referendum in support of greater autonomy appears to have backfired by failing to get support from Baghdad and resulting in a leadership shake-up among the Kurds. Support for independence was overwhelming — 93 percent — which only seems to galvanize other forces in Iraq and the region to resist the independence demand.

The State Department and Pentagon have been focused in recent months far more on the political maneuvering over the formation of a new Iraqi government, with Kurdish priorities largely sidelined. The wrangling after May’s national elections appears to have ended this week with the formation of a ruling coalition, a compromise prime minister and the naming of longtime moderate Kurdish politician Barham Salih to the largely ceremonial post of president — traditionally reserved for a Kurd in Iraqi political practice. “With the government still not formed, things are just taking time right now [in Iraqi Kurdistan] because that’s the No. 1 priority,” Col. Ryan said as a coalition deal was coming together this week.

But Kurds complain that Trump administration promises of political and especially military support to Iraqi Kurdistan have fallen flat in the year after Irbil’s fateful decision to press for independence. The effort is unlikely to gain further momentum despite Mr. Trump’s rhetoric last week. “Most people who have worked on U.S. foreign policy would argue that a strong American relationship with the KRG should be an essential pillar of U.S. strategy toward Iraq and the broader Middle East,” said John Hannah, a specialist in Middle East affairs who served as a security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I think that the narrow focus on defeating ISIS, as well as a lack of bandwidth, limited the [Trump] administration’s ability to think strategically about Iraq’s future in ways that came back to bite us,” particularly in the case of Iraq’s Kurds, said Mr. Hannah, now a senior counselor at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. As a result, “the dream of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan has been put on hold indefinitely,” he said.

It’s a far cry from the scene just a year ago, when the streets of Irbil were filled with Iraqi Kurds reveling in the historic independence referendum. Many saw the vote as the precursor to an eventual autonomous Kurdish state. But those hopes were quickly dashed by a swift and heavy-handed response from then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a close ally of Washington who deployed government forces to secure control over key areas within Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraqi government forces and Shiite paramilitary units trained and equipped by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps rapidly recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates in the weeks after the referendum.

“The referendum was not worth doing because we lost Kirkuk,” Kayfi Adil, an Irbil taxi driver, told the Agence France-Presse news agency last month. “I believe it was not a good idea to hold the referendum because we did not benefit from it.” In the end, KRG President Masoud Barzani was forced to abandon the push for independence and Kurdish leaders in Irbil found themselves fighting for political relevance among Baghdad’s Shiite and Sunni power brokers. “This has been the Kurdish Regional Government’s annus horribilis,” Mr. Hannah said, adding that Iraqi Kurdish leaders badly miscalculated U.S. support for their cause…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Ben Cohen

JNS, Sept.14, 2018

Iran’s regime is defying the newly found U.S. resolve to counter its malign influence with whatever means it has at its disposal. On Sept. 8, seven missiles were launched against the headquarters of an Iranian Kurdish rebel group in Koysinjaq, close to the border with Iraq, claiming the lives of at least 15 people—a death toll that the mullahs in Tehran found most satisfying.

The attack on the Kurds was carefully designed to send the region a message. “With a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), our missiles endow the Iranian nation with a unique ability to fight against arrogant foreign powers,” Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“All those that have forces, bases and equipment within a 2,000-kilometer radius of Iran’s sacred borders should know that (our) missiles are highly accurate,” Jafari continued pointedly. (Tel Aviv, of course, lies 1,900 kilometers to the west of Tehran.) “Our recent vengeance upon terrorists,” he went on, using the official regime term for Iranian Kurds seeking autonomy, “had a very clear message for enemies, especially superpowers who think they can bully us.”

The message is that Iran is not afraid to resort to military force, either through its ongoing ballistic-missile program or through interventions on the ground carried out by Iran’s own forces or their local proxies. As the missile attack on the Kurds demonstrated, that is not idle talk.

It is the Kurds, in fact, whose experiences over the last year are the best—and therefore, the grimmest—evidence of what happens when Iran occupies your territory. The latest ordeal facing this nation of 25 million—by far the largest stateless nation in the Middle East, but receiving only a fraction of the media coverage enjoyed by the 5 million Palestinians—was conceived in Tehran after the independence referendum of September 2017 in the Kurdish region of Iraq. That vote resulted in a 93 percent majority favoring independence, but what should have been a cause for celebration for their Kurds and their allies ended up as a disaster.

Many countries, especially those with Kurdish populations, issued barely veiled threats of invasion before the vote even took place. Turkey, Iran and the Iranian-backed Iraqi government all denounced the vote as an attempt to create a “second Israel” in the region, with the term “fifth column” frequently deployed in the media to describe the alleged status of the Kurds within Israel’s strategic calculations.

An Iranian-backed military offensive, involving Iraqi government forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary organization—the Iraqi equivalent of Lebanon’s Hezbollah—smashed through Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq throughout October and November. That operation was directed by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s “Quds Force,” the notorious military agency that co-ordinates Iran’s regional interventions in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

By the time the offensive ended, more than 50 percent of the territory liberated from ISIS by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, including the city of Kirkuk, lay in the hands of the Iraqi government in Baghdad and Hashd al-Shaabi. “This attack, waged by the Iraqi government, Hashd al-Shaabi and forces associated with the Headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, is in retaliation against the people of Kurdistan who have asked for freedom,” a Peshmerga statement declared at the height of the fighting.

Yet the outside world remained shamefully disinterested in the Iraqi Kurdish plight last year. That is a key reason why Iran now believes it can make an example of its own 7 million Kurds with impunity. “We have always considered Iran a danger to us,” Mustafa Muludi, the General Secretary of the Kurdistan Independence Party of Iran (KDPI) told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw after the Sept. 8 missile attacks. “This bombardment has made our fear stronger.”

Their fear should be our alarm bell. The sorry record of international betrayal of Kurdish aspirations dates back to the end of the First World War, and frankly, betrayal remains at the heart of our policy. The Iranian-led assault last year used artillery and armored vehicles supplied by the U.S. government to the Iraqi government. Our response, as the Iranians openly mocked us by using American-made weapons to attack one of our closest regional allies, was to have the State Department confirm its “One Iraq” policy, effectively closing the door on the Kurdish bid for national sovereignty.

Only Israel came out of last year’s disgrace with any honor, as the one country to warmly welcome the referendum result, and to express the hope that the Kurds would join the Jews as a free nation in the Middle East. Yet as much as Israel has covertly aided the Kurdish national movement over the years, it is not in a position to fight on their behalf. As Kurdish leaders repeatedly state, the task of allies is to ensure that their own seasoned warriors can do that for themselves.

Last year, sadly, the Trump administration helped to tie the Kurds’ hands by equivocating over the referendum and the Iranian onslaught that followed. Iran now seeks to test our resolve by continuing its campaign against the creation of a Kurdish state that would be far more open, far more democratic and far more pacific than any of its neighbors. As yet, there is no sign that our shameful policy is changing.



On Topic Links

Iraq’s New Leaders Seen as Technocrats, in a Break From Sectarian Politics: Ben Hubbard and Falih Hassan, New York Times, Oct. 2, 2018—For nearly five months, Iraqi politicians have wrangled over the shape of their new government. The bloc led by Moktada al-Sadr, the former Shiite militia leader and longtime American enemy, won the most votes in the May election. He had rebranded himself as an “Iraq First” populist, vowing to fight corruption, opposing both American and Iranian intervention, and promising a new nonsectarian politics.

Assassination of Iraq’s Feminists: Beauty Queen Flees to Jordan After Threat, String of Deaths: National Post, Oct. 9, 2018—A former Miss Iraq beauty queen has fled the country following a spate of killings of high-profile women. Shimaa Qasim Abdulrahman said she left for Jordan after receiving death threats from a man purporting to be an Islamic State member who told her, “You’re next”.

A Strong Kurdistan Region is Good for US in Iraq: Seth J. Frantzman, The Hill, Oct. 16, 2018—Over 200 publishing companies from 35 countries converged on northern Iraq on Oct. 10 to showcase their work at the city’s 13th annual Erbil International Book Fair. Leading officials came to see the ribbon cutting to open the fair in the Kurdistan region’s capital. It was a symbol of the normality that has swept the region more than a year after ISIS was defeated in Mosul, an hour’s drive northwest of the city.

It is Time for the U.S. to Help Liberate the Kurds: Qanta Ahmed, Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2018—Marking the one-year anniversary of the Kurdish referendum this week, the moral obligation to support Kurdish independence for more than 36 million Kurds hangs heavily. While the will of the Kurdish people was clear in a 73% turnout in the vote last September, 93% voted for independence from Iraq. It seemed the world – including the US – ignored the referendum and then, worse, showed remarkable contempt by dismissing the desires of the largest stateless nation of peoples in the world, with a population less than those of Canada and Australia.


The Populist Revolt Reaches Iraq: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, May 22, 2018— The worldwide populist revolt toppling conventional politicians in the United States, Europe and even the Philippines has now reached Iraq.

The Results of the Iraqi Elections? A Slap in the Face to Iran: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, May 22, 2018— The results of the Iraqi legislative elections have taken both Iran and the United States by surprise.

Kurds in Iraq Adrift After Iraqi Election: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2018— At a meeting of Kurdistan Democratic Party officials on Saturday in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq, the party sought Kurdish unity in negotiations with Baghdad.

Iraq’s Christians: Eighty Percent Have “Disappeared”: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 1, 2018— Persecution of Christians is worse today “than at any time in history”, a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed.

On Topic Links

Once Hated by U.S. and Tied to Iran, Is Sadr Now ‘Face of Reform’ in Iraq?: Margaret Coker, New York Times, May 20, 2018

Iraqi Election Opens New Chapter: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, May 20, 2018

The ISIS Tactics That Have Left Iraqi Special Forces Weakened: Chirine Mouchantaf, Defense News, May 8, 2018

A Future for Kurdish Independence?: Michael Eppel, Middle East Quarterly, Mar. 01, 2018



Michael J. Totten

World Affairs Journal, May 22, 2018


The worldwide populist revolt toppling conventional politicians in the United States, Europe and even the Philippines has now reached Iraq. Most Westerners still following Iraqi politics assumed that incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory coalition would handily win the parliamentary election, but nope. Abadi’s coalition came in third. Firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairun coalition came in first.

You remember Moqtada al-Sadr. He’s the guy who mounted an Iranian-backed Shia insurgency against the United States, the Iraqi government and his Sunni civilian neighbors between 2003 and 2008. He’s a very different person today. He still raises and shakes his fist in the air but today he’s shaking it at crooked elites, and he’s shaking it at his former Iranian patrons. “If corrupt (officials) and quotas remain,” Sadr declared, “the entire government will be brought down and no one will be exempt.” In other words, drain the swamp.

He’s Iraq’s version of the rabble-rousing populist: fundamentalist, anti-establishment and anti-foreigner. A champion of the working class and a declared enemy of liberal Western ideas. His list even included Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the colorful journalist who famously threw a shoe at President George W. Bush at a press conference in Baghdad in 2008.

He would of course be nowhere without the Westerners he despises. Americans, after all, cleared Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian Baath Party regime out of the way and established the election system that put him on top. He’d also be nowhere without Iran. His former allies in the Islamic Republic next door armed his Mahdi Army militia and gave him refuge when the Americans were coming to get him. Now that the United States is (mostly) gone from Iraq, and now that Iran has been mucking around in Iraqi politics to disastrous effect for more than a decade, Sadr has become as anti-Iranian as he is anti-American. He’s not at all happy with a foreign capital using his government as a hand-puppet, whether that foreign capital is Washington, DC, or Tehran.

No need for surprise here. Many in Iraq’s large Shia majority feel a natural kinship with the even larger Shia majority in Iran, but ethnic tension between Arabs and Persians has been a feature of Middle Eastern geopolitics for as long as Arabs and Persians have inhabited the region, and nationalist tension between Iran and Iraq has been present throughout Iraq’s entire (albeit brief) history as a modern nation-state. Shia Iraqis and Shia Iranians are natural allies, but at the same time, Arab Iraqis and Persian Iranians are natural enemies.

Sadr is painfully reactionary and more than a little bit dangerous. He’s also complicated. He is a Shia sectarian whose militia brutally “cleansed” Sunnis from neighborhoods in and around Baghdad but he’s also what passes today for an Iraqi nationalist, disavowing violence against all Iraqis and opposing all foreign influence. “We won’t allow the Iraqis to be cannon fodder for the wars of others nor be used in proxy wars outside Iraq,” says Sadrist movement member Jumah Bahadily of the Syrian civil war. He also forged an alliance with communists—a horrifying ideological cocktail from the point of view of any liberal-minded Westerner, but alas there are few Jeffersonian democrats in old Mesopotamia. There are however, some secular reformists and technocrats, and they also formed an alliance with the Sadrists. Tehran has taken notice and isn’t happy about it. “We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq,” says Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to Iranian ruler Ayatollah Khamenei.

Precious few Americans would enjoy living under a government run by Sadrists. Even so, his pushback against Iran is nothing to sniff at. Westerners and Arabs alike have bemoaned Iran’s rising influence in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam, thanks in large part to Sadr’s own Mahdi Army, yet no one is resisting Iranian influence in Iraq as successfully right now as he is. Sure, the Sunni parties are pushing back as they always do, but the Sunnis are a small minority. Nearly all Iranian influence in Iraq comes through the Shias. Only they can successfully resist Tehran because they’re the only ones who can enable Tehran in the first place. With Sadr’s movement in the saddle, Iran faces the most formidable obstacle in Baghdad since Saddam flitted from palace to palace.

Sadr will not be Iraq’s next prime minister. His list won the most votes but he himself did not stand for election. He could be the next kingmaker, so to speak, but even that’s not guaranteed. While his party won more seats than the others, it did not win the majority. It’s still possible that the others will unite in a coalition against him. Nobody knows yet. Whatever ends up happening, the main takeaway here ought to be this: Iraq isn’t even in the same time zone as high-functioning liberal democracies like New Zealand and France, but we can parse the result and guess at the ultimate outcome of its fourth consecutive election as if it were.




Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

JCPA, May 22, 2018


The results of the Iraqi legislative elections have taken both Iran and the United States by surprise. The party of Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American and anti-Iranian Shiite cleric, succeeded in winning 54 out of the 329 seats in the newly-elected Iraqi parliament. By doing so, his Sairoun party list (Arabic for “going forward”) became the biggest parliamentary faction. Al-Sadr’s Sairoun beat the favorite pro-Iranian parties headed by Hadi al-Amiri, commander of the pro-Iranian Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (Arabic for “popular mobilization units”) militia, which took part in crushing ISIS and presented itself under the name Al-Fath (Arabic for “conquest”), which lost by seven seats (47). Another party led by a pro-Iran candidate, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, won 26 seats.

The final results were published on May 19, 2018, seven days after the election day, due to allegations of massive fraud within the Kurdish-populated provinces of Kirkuk and Dahuk. The tabulations confirmed the partial results, which were published immediately after the elections, and the projection that Muqtada al-Sadr’s faction was the biggest parliamentary group. Although al-Sadr will not become prime minister since his name was not included in the list, he will likely play the role of the “kingmaker” behind the scenes and form the next Iraqi government – if Iran does not succeed in blocking him. In 2010, that is precisely what Iran did after Ayad Allawi won the most seats but could not form a government. Instead, Iran intervened and presented another pro-Iranian alternative. Indeed, despite the fact that al-Sadr’s faction is the biggest in the coming parliament, under the Iraqi constitution a larger coalition of factions is tasked with forming a new government.

Muqtada al-Sadr (born 1973) became famous in 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq as the leader of a militia who led two armed uprisings against the U.S. forces. He also incited sectarian violence but rebranded himself as a champion of the poor, promoter of social protests, and corruption fighter. Al-Sadr was also vehemently anti-Iranian and criticized Iraqi politicians who became vassals of the Ayatollahs in Iran. Muqtada al-Sadr’s success stems primarily from the fact that the 44.25 percent election turnout was the lowest since 2003 and a drop from 62 percent in 2014, which played in al-Sadr’s favor since his followers voted en masse while others either abstained or showed a lack of interest…Moreover, Muqtada al-Sadr called on all “patriotic” factions, while emphasizing his rejection of the two main pro-Iranian blocs – Hadi al-Amiri’s Al-Fath list and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s “State of Law Coalition” to join his coalition in order to restore to Iraq its dignity, independence, and freedom of choice.

By the end of the week (May 18, 2018), al-Sadr scored yet another victory by rallying Ammar al-Hakim, a cleric and politician, former leader of the Islamic Council of Iraq (2004-2017), and head of the “National Wisdom Movement” (Al Hikma), who won 19 seats in the elections and agreed to explore establishing a united faction. Ammar al-Hakim was part of Haider al-Abadi’s coalition in 2014, but he decided to split away before the 2018 elections. Muqtada al-Sadr, whose list included Communists and liberal factions, has called to form a technocratic government to fight party corruption. He emphasized in his Tweets after the elections the need to restore the independent identity of Iraq, “making Baghdad the capital of our identity” and pointing very clearly at the need to depart from Iranian tutelage…

Muqtada al-Sadr’s goal is to reach a coalition of 165 seats (which represent a majority of one seat in the 329-seat Parliament) to assure his government a majority and to block any attempts from pro-Iranian factions to form an alternative pro-Iranian government. To do so, he still needs to rally a plethora of petty political factions, such as Osama al-Nujaifi’s al-Qarar al-Iraqi alliance (14 seats ), Hanan al-Fatlawi’s Eradaa bloc (two seats), former Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi’s list (two seats), and the Kurdish Shasour Abd el-Wahed’s faction (one seat). There is no doubt that negotiations between the parties will last a long time. However, the chances are that those petty lists will agree to join the coalition in the “biggest bang” of politics in Iraq since the American invasion of 2003…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




                                                Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2018


At a meeting of Kurdistan Democratic Party officials on Saturday in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq, the party sought Kurdish unity in negotiations with Baghdad. Two weeks after the May 12 election, the Kurdish parties, of which the KDP is the largest, are trying to determine how they can continue to play a central role in the coalition building that must take place for a new government to be formed.

But Kurdish politics has been in disarray since the independence referendum last September, and critics say the current discussions with Baghdad look more like begging for a role than playing the kingmaker as Kurds once did. The KDP came in fourth in the election, worse than Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon party, Hadi al-Amiri’s Fateh alliance and Haider al-Abadi’s Victory alliance. With 25 seats in the unicameral, 329-member legislature, they have the same strength as Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition. Maliki, Amiri, Sadr and Abadi all run parties whose main supporters are Shi’ite Arabs.

Together, all these other parties could simply run the country, without the Kurds or the Sunni Arabs. But politics isn’t so simple in Iraq. Amiri’s and Maliki’s parties are very close to Iran, while Sadr’s positioned itself as a nationalist party opposed to both Iranian and American influence in Iraq. This gives the Kurds the ability to sign on with one camp or another.

The current position of the Kurds illustrates how much things have changed in the last decade and a half since Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. In the parliamentary election of December 2005, Massoud Barzani, leading a united Kurdish list, came in second with 53 seats. Since then the myriad Kurdish parties have increasingly contested the elections on their own, with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan taking around 20 seats each time and the smaller Kurdish Islamic parties and the Gorran (Change) movement taking a dozen seats between them. The fragmentation has weakened the Kurdish bargaining power in Baghdad.

During the four years of war against ISIS, this weakened bargaining power mattered less, because Baghdad’s policies appeared to have failed Iraq and allowed ISIS to take control of a third of the country.

In those years it was common to hear Kurdish Peshmerga on the front line say that Iraq was finished as a country; how could it recover from the divisions created by ISIS. Increasing Iranian influence and the growth of sectarian militias, called the Popular Mobilization Units, appeared to show that Iraq was slipping into corruption and chaos. Kurds could point to their region in the northeast as the one stable and economically viable area. The stability in the Kurdish region began to change after the referendum, when Baghdad took advantage of Kurdish divisions to retake Kirkuk in October 2017 from the Peshmerga, who had defended it against ISIS. Anger over late payment of salaries and accusations of corruption at the highest levels led to a series of mass protests in December.

It was in this context that Kurdish parties contested the recent election. But any thought that voters would punish the leading KDP and PUK parties did not materialize. Instead the traditional parties performed as expected. Nevertheless the bitterness from the fall of 2017 remains. After the election in Sulaimaniya, the Gorran party headquarters was fired upon. Four smaller Kurdish parties (Gorran, Coalition for Justice and Democracy, Kurdistan Islamic Union and Kurdistan Islamic Group) met with US anti-ISIS envoy Brett McGurk this past Tuesday, demanding the election results be annulled due to allegations of fraud. It’s unclear why they thought McGurk could get the results changed, he’s ostensibly in Iraq to coordinate the anti-ISIS fight, but there is widespread perception that he is there to represent US interests in coalition building after the election.

The KDP and PUK pursued a different avenue. On Wednesday, Sadr met with representatives of the PUK and KDP, and on Thursday the two leading Kurdish parties met with Maliki and Amiri in Baghdad. It’s not entirely clear what came out of the meetings between the Kurdish parties; it wasn’t so long ago that Maliki and Amiri were despised in Erbil; Maliki accused of being an Iranian pawn, and Amiri’s Shi’ite militias seen as a Shia version of ISIS. But power politics now takes precedence over old biases. There are rumors that Iran would like to see a coalition without Sadr, which would include the Kurdish parties and the other Shi’ite parties. But there are also rumors that the Kurdish parties could work with Sadr to undermine Iran’s influence.

Either way, Erbil’s demands appear to be mostly about salaries and economic rights. The region exports oil and wants its public salaries paid by Baghdad. The region is holding out hope that the new US strategy on Iran will mean more support for the Kurds as a traditional ally of Washington. The Kurdish region can only hope that it is needed as a coalition partner in Baghdad and by Washington to continue playing a vital role in Iraq.





Giulio Meotti

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 1, 2018


Persecution of Christians is worse today “than at any time in history”, a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed. Iraq happens to be “ground zero” for the “elimination” of Christians from the pages of history. Iraqi Christian clergymen recently wore a black sign as a symbol of national mourning for the last victims of the anti-Christian violence: a young worker and a whole family of three. “This means that there is no place for Christians,” said Father Biyos Qasha of the Church of Maryos in Baghdad. “We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time”.

A few days earlier, Shiite militiamen discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 40 Christians near Mosul, the former stronghold of the Islamic State and the capital of Iraqi Christianity. The bodies, including those of women and children, seemed to belong to Christians kidnapped and killed by ISIS. Many had crosses with them in the mass grave. Not a single article in the Western mainstream media wrote about this ethnic cleansing.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia made an urgent plea to Europe and the West to defend non-Muslims in the Middle East, whom he likened to Holocaust victims. “As our parents wore the yellow star, Christians are made to wear the scarlet letter of nun” Korsia said. The Hebrew letter “nun” is the same sound as the beginning of Nazareen, an Arabic term signifying people from Nazareth, or Christians, and used by the Islamic State to mark the Christian houses in Mosul.

Now a new report by the Iraqi Human Rights Society also just revealed that Iraqi minorities, such as Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks, are now victims of a “slow genocide”, which is shattering those ancient communities to the point of their disappearance. The numbers are significant. According to the report, 81% of Iraq’s Christians have disappeared from Iraq. The remaining number of Sabeans, an ancient community devoted to St. John the Baptist, is even smaller: 94% have disappeared from Iraq. Even 18% of Yazidis have left the country or been killed. Another human rights organization, Hammurabi, said that Baghdad had 600,000 Christians in the recent past; today there are only 150,000.

These numbers may be the reason Charles de Meyer, president of SOS Chrétiens d’Orient, has just spoken of the “extinction of Christians”. Father Salar Kajo of the Churches’ Nineveh Reconstruction Committee just spoke of the real possibility that “Christianity will disappear from Iraq”. Many ancient Christian churches and sites have been destroyed by Islamic extremists, such as Saint George Church in Mosul; the Virgin Mary Chaldean Church, attacked by car bomb, and the burned Armenian Church in Mosul. Hundreds of Christian homes have been razed in Mosul, where jihadists also toppled bell towers and crosses. The Iraqi clergy recently warned, “The churches are in danger”.

Tragically, Christians living in lands formerly under the control of the “Caliphate” have been betrayed by many actors in the West. Governments ignored their tragic fate. Bishops were often too aloof to denounce their persecution. The media acted as if they considered these Christians to be agents of colonialism who deserved to be purged from the Middle East. And the so-called “human rights” organizations abandoned them. European public opinion, supposedly always ready to rally against the discrimination of minorities, did not say a word about what Ayaan Hirsi Ali called “a war against Christians”.

Some communities, such as the small Christian enclaves of Mosul, are now lost forever. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said there is a “real danger” Christianity could just become a “museum” in the Middle East. He noted that Iraq has lost 80-90% of its Christian population. A few Christian villages have begun a slow and painful process of reconstruction with funds donated mainly by international relief organizations such as the US Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need. US Vice President Mike Pence recently promised to help these Christians. Action now must follow words. Christians who escaped and survived ISIS cannot depend today only on aid from churches and private groups.

Among European governments, only Hungary took a principled position and openly committed itself to save Iraqi Christianity from genocide. Recently, the Hungarian government opened a school for displaced Christians in Erbil; Hungary’s Minister of Human Resources, Zoltan Balog, attended the event. Imagine if all the other European countries, such as France and Germany, had done the same. The suffering of Christians in Iraq would today be much less and their numbers much higher.

The West was not willing to give sanctuary to these Christians when ISIS murdered 1,131 of them and destroyed or damaged 125 of their churches. We must now stand by their side before it is too late. After the mass displacements and the mass graves, we must help Christians rebuild in the lands where their people were martyred. Otherwise, even the smallest hope of hearing the sound of Christian church bells in the ancient lands of the Bible will be forever lost.



On Topic Links

Once Hated by U.S. and Tied to Iran, Is Sadr Now ‘Face of Reform’ in Iraq?: Margaret Coker, New York Times, May 20, 2018

Iraqi Election Opens New Chapter: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, May 20, 2018— During the British House of Commons’ stormy debate on 29 August 2013 on whether or not to intervene in Syria to stop further chemical weapon massacres by President Bashar al-Assad, the then leader of the opposition Ed Miliband boasted that he could prove intervention wrong by just one word: Iraq!

The ISIS Tactics That Have Left Iraqi Special Forces Weakened: Chirine Mouchantaf, Defense News, May 8, 2018— It took Iraqi forces three years to significantly drive Islamic State militants out of the country, but the group’s nontraditional tactics have damaged Iraq’s special forces, according to one major Iraqi military commander.

A Future for Kurdish Independence?: Michael Eppel, Middle East Quarterly, Mar. 01, 2018— The Kurdish independence referendum of September 25, 2017, has proven thus far to be an ill-conceived high-risk gamble.


Erdogan’s Fire and Fury: Robert Ellis, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018— Under the bizarre name “Olive Branch,” Turkey has launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria.

Don’t Abandon the Kurds to the ‘Mercies’ of Turkey’s Tyrant: Ralph Peters, New York Post, Jan. 22, 2018— The United States has been the protector and ally of the Kurds for a quarter-century.

Turkey, the Arab World Is Just Not That into You: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 14, 2018— He runs around in a fake fire extinguisher's outfit, holding a silly hose in his hands and knocking on neighbors' doors to put out the fire in their homes.

Erdogan's Israel Obsession: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, Dec. 24, 2017— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostility toward Israel can be puzzling at times.


On Topic Links


Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria: Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018

Watching Turkey's Descent into Islamist Dictatorship: Andrew Harrod, Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018

Turkey is Becoming New Hub for Salafist-Jihadi Exodus from Syria: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2018

Turkey’s Expansionist Military Policies in the Middle East: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Jan. 24, 2018





Robert Ellis

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2018


Under the bizarre name “Olive Branch,” Turkey has launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria. This operation had been expected for the past week and only needed Moscow’s blessing to begin.


US support for the struggle by Kurdish forces to drive Islamic State (ISIS) from northern Syria has long been a thorn in Turkey’s side, as has the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish region (Rojava). The backbone of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is considered by Turkey to be part and parcel of Turkey’s separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).



Matters came to a head on January 13, when the US-led Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) announced the formation of a 30,000-strong “Border Security Force,” half of which would consist of SDF veterans. The force would be deployed along the border with Turkey, the Iraqi border and along the Euphrates River Valley, an area which contains two of Rojava’s three regions. This was a red flag to Turkey’s already belligerent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threatened to “strangle” this force “before it’s even born.” The Pentagon said this was “a mischaracterization of the training that we are providing to local security forces in Syria” and instead it was a “kind of security or stabilization force” or “some sort of hold force.” According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “Some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all.”


Erdogan warned that Turkey would destroy all terrorist nests in Syria, starting from the Afrin and Manbij regions, and that it would do so in about a week. In August 2016, a month after the attempted coup in Turkey, the Turkish army crossed the Syrian border and in Operation Euphrates Shield occupied most of the area west of the Euphrates and east of the third Kurdish region, Afrin, effectively blocking any attempt to create a Kurdish corridor south of the Turkish border.


But Manbij, which lies west of the Euphrates, was captured by the SDF from ISIS in 2016 and is a thorn in Turkey’s eye. The Pentagon immediately distanced itself from Afrin and stated it did not support YPG elements in Afrin and did not consider them part of their fight against ISIS. “We are not involved with them at all,” the Pentagon’s spokesman added.


The Syrian government has warned Turkey that combat operations in the Afrin area would be considered an act of aggression which would be met by Syrian air defenses. However, as Syrian airspace is controlled by Russia, on Thursday Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar and head of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) Hakan Fidan were sent to Moscow to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov to pave the way for the operation. In August a Russian Center for Reconciliation was set up near the city of Afrin, but the personnel have now been withdrawn “to prevent potential provocation and exclude the threat to the life and well-being of Russian military [personnel].”


On Saturday the Turkish General Staff announced that it had launched “Operation Olive Branch” to establish security and stability on Turkey’s borders, to eliminate terrorists and to save “our friends and brothers” (a reference to opposition forces backed by Turkey) from oppression and cruelty. It also claimed the right to self-defense while being respectful of Syria’s territorial integrity. In turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern and called on the sides to exercise constraint.


However, the Russian Defense Ministry put the blame for Turkey’s “extremely negative reaction” fair and square on “the provocative US steps aimed at the separation of regions with a predominantly Kurdish population” and “the Pentagon’s uncontrolled deliveries of modern weapons to the pro-US forces in northern Syria.”


Nevertheless, Russia’s attempts to include Syria’s Kurdish minority in an overall settlement for Syria have suffered a major setback. A draft constitution for Syria put forward by Russia in Astana a year ago safeguarded the status of what it termed “Kurdish cultural autonomy.” With regard to the National Dialogue Congress which will take place in Sochi next week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated, “The Kurds are definitely part of the Syrian nation and we need to take their interests into consideration.”


Furthermore, the opportunity for what Lavrov has called “a constructive dialogue” with the US has also been sacrificed on the altar of President Erdogan’s ambition. Former Turkish foreign minister Yasar Yakis believes an accommodation over the Kurdish question in Syria is a possible area of convergence between the US and Russia – if political and military developments do not get out of control. Which is what they at present show every sign of doing.               




Ralph Peters

New York Post, Jan. 22, 2018


The United States has been the protector and ally of the Kurds for a quarter-century. And the Kurds have proven to be, man-for-man and woman-for-woman, the best fighters in the region. Without Kurdish boots on the ground, we would not have made the sweeping progress achieved against the Islamic State caliphate. Now, with ISIS crushed (but still wriggling and snapping), we’re turning our backs on our Kurdish allies in Syria as they’re attacked by a NATO ally gone rogue — Turkey, which is led by an Islamist strongman, the odious “President” Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


The Kurds are fighting for freedom and a state of their own. There are at least 30 million Kurds divided between Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, and possibly 10 million more — none of the states where they’re captive have allowed an honest census. Kurds have been butchered en masse, denied fundamental rights, imprisoned, tortured, raped, cheated and scapegoated. (All of which should sound unnervingly familiar to those who know Israel’s backstory.)


After letting the Kurds down at Versailles a century ago, when we acquiesced to denying them a state, we finally stepped up to do the right thing in the wake of Desert Storm — after Saddam Hussein had used poison gas on Iraq’s Kurdish population. In return, the Kurds have fought bravely beside us in a succession of conflicts. Outside of Israel, no one has done more to support our priorities — especially in combatting Islamist terrorists. Now we’re on the verge of permitting another slaughter of Kurds. To please Turkey. We should be on the side of the underdogs, not of the rabid dogs.


As Turkish tanks roll into Syria’s Afrin Province to kill Kurds, it’s time to recognize that Turkey’s no longer an ally and no longer belongs in NATO (Erdogan is even buying Russian air-defense systems). Turkey’s dictator-in-all-but-name has gutted democracy, imprisoned tens of thousands on false charges, suppressed the free media, rigged the courts, backed Islamist hardliners in Syria — and, for political advantage, reignited a conflict that had gone quiet with Turkey’s internal Kurdish population. Oh, and Erdogan’s a prime supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Turkey and abroad.


Why on earth are we permitting his attack on our Kurdish allies? It really comes down to two related issues. First, inertia. Turkey has been our ally (if a difficult one) since the early Cold War, so we blindly accept the notion that it must remain an ally forever — even as Erdogan works against our strategic interests. Second, restricted use of a single air base has paralyzed our Turkey policy. Unquestionably, Incirlik air base, in southeastern Turkey, has a prime strategic location. Our operations would be more challenging without it. And Turkey uses that as leverage. It’s time to call Erdogan’s bluff. We should not sacrifice the future of 30 million to 40 million pro-American Kurds for the sake of a couple of runways.


Erdogan’s excuse for sending his air force and army across the border into Syrian territory liberated by Kurds is his bogus claim that the Kurds we’ve backed — who fought ISIS house to house — are all terrorists. In the alphabet game of the Middle East, Erdogan insists that Syria’s Kurdish YPG forces — our allies — are indistinguishable from the PKK, a Turkish domestic resistance group that had abandoned terror to seek a political accommodation. While oppressed Kurds everywhere do feel a measure of solidarity with one another, claiming that the YPG is the same as the PKK is like blaming Rand Paul for Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.


What should we do to stop Turkey from using US-supplied, US-made weapons to kill our only dependable regional allies outside of Israel? It’s time to embrace the future rather than clinging to the past. It’s time to imagine a strategy without Incirlik air base and with Turkey suspended from NATO until it returns to the rule of law and honest elections. It’s time to recognize that the Kurds deserve and have earned a state of their own. And, right now, it’s past time to draw a red line for Erdogan, who cannot be permitted to slaughter Kurds who have been fighting beside us and for us. The Kurds aren’t terrorists. The terrorist sits in his president’s chair in Ankara.               




Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Jan. 14, 2018


He runs around in a fake fire extinguisher's outfit, holding a silly hose in his hands and knocking on neighbors' doors to put out the fire in their homes. "Go away," his neighbors keep telling him. "There is no fire here!" I am the person to put out that fire, he insists, as doors keep shutting on his face. That was more or less how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's neo-Ottoman, pro-ummah (Islamic community), "Big Brother" game has looked in the Middle East.


After years of trial and failure Erdogan does not understand that his services are not wanted in the Muslim neighborhood: The Iranians are too Shiite to trust his Sunni Islamism; the (mostly Sunni) Kurds' decades-long dispute with the Turks is more ethnic than religious; and Sunni Arabs do not wish to revisit their Ottoman colonial past. Still, Erdogan insists.


Turkish textbooks have taught children how treacherous Arab tribes stabbed their Ottoman ancestors in the back during the First World War, and even how Arabs collaborated with non-Muslim Western powers against Muslim Ottoman Turks. A pro-Western, secular rule in the modern Turkish state in the 20th century coupled with various flavors of Islamism in the Arab world added to an already ingrained anti-Arabism in the Turkish psyche. Erdogan's indoctrination, on the other hand, had to break that anti-Arabism if he wanted to revive the Ottoman Turkish rule over a future united ummah. The Turks had to rediscover their "Arab brothers" if Erdogan's pan-Islamism had to advance into the former Ottoman realms in the Middle East.


It was not a coincidence that the number of imam [religious] school students, under Erdogan's rule, has risen sharply to 1.3 million from a mere 60,000 when he first came to power in 2002, an increase of more than twenty-fold. Erdogan is happy. "We are grateful to God for that," he said late in 2017. Meanwhile, the Turkish Education Ministry added Arabic courses to its curriculum and the state broadcaster, TRT, launched an Arabic television channel.


Not enough. In addition, Erdogan would pursue a systematic policy to bash Israel at every opportunity and play the champion Muslim leader of the "Palestinian cause." He has done that, too, and in an exaggerated way, by countless times declaring himself the champion of the Palestinian cause — and he still does it. Erdogan's Turkey championed an international campaign to recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital city of the Palestinian state, with several Arab pats on the shoulder.


His spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, happily said that the dispute over Jerusalem after President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital "had in fact united the Muslim world." A united Muslim front around the "Palestinian capital Jerusalem" is a myth. Iran, for instance, renounced Turkey's Jerusalem efforts because, according to the regime, the entire city of Jerusalem, not just eastern Jerusalem, should have been recognized as the Palestinian capital. Before that, Turkey accused some Arab countries of showing a weak reaction to Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.


The Turkish-Arab fraternity along Muslims lines is an even bigger myth. For instance, the Saudi-led Gulf blockade of Qatar imposed in June came as a complete shock. One of his Sunni brothers had taken out the sword against another?! Turkey's Sunni brothers had once been sympathetic to his ideas but no longer are. Only two years ago, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were mulling the idea of a joint military strike in Syria.


For the Sunni Saudis, the Turks were allies only if they could be of use in any fight against Shiite Iran or its proxies, such as the Baghdad government or the Syrian regime. For the Saudis, Turkey was only useful if it could serve a sectarian purpose. Meanwhile, as Turkey, together with Qatar, kept on championing Hamas, Saudi Arabia and Egypt distanced themselves from the Palestinian cause and consequently from Turkey. Both the Saudi kingdom and Egypt's al-Sisi regime have viewed Hamas, an Iranian satellite, with hostility, whereas Turkey gave it logistical and ideological support. Another reason for the change in Saudi Arabia's position toward Turkey — from "friendly" to "semi-medium-hostile" — is Saudi Arabia's newfound alliance with Egypt's President el-Sisi. El-Sisi replaced the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, in Egypt, while Turkey and Qatar, have effectively been the embodiments of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Erdogan offered to build a Turkish military base in the Kingdom, for example, but in June, Saudi officials turned him down.


Erdogan might benefit by being reminded of a few facts and shaken out of his make-believe world. For instance, he might recall, that his worst regional nemesis is an Arab leader, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, not an "infidel king." He must realize that he is no longer the "rock star" he was in the streets of Amman or Beirut that he once was – when the only currency he could sell on the Arab Street was his anti-Semitic rants. Turkey does not even have full diplomatic relations with the most populous Sunni Arab nation, Egypt. More recently, a tiny sheikdom had to remind Erdogan that his expansionist, "ummah-ist" design for the Middle East was no more than a fairy tale he persistently wanted to believe. In December, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahayan shared a tweet that accused Turkish troops of looting the holy city of Medina a century ago. In response, Erdogan himself lashed out: “Some impertinent man sinks low and goes as far as accusing our ancestors of thievery … What spoiled this man? He was spoiled by oil, by the money he has.”


But that was not the end of what looks like a minor historical debate. The row symbolized the impossibility of what Erdogan has been trying to build: An eternal Arab-Turkish fraternity. Anwar Gargash, UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said there was a need for Arab countries to rally around the "Arab axis" of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Did Erdogan hear that? If not, he should have heard this one: Gargash also said that "the Arab world would not be led by Turkey." In what better plain diplomatic language could the idea have been expressed? Meanwhile Erdogan keeps living in his make-believe world. Last summer, as part of his futile "euphemizing Arab-Ottoman history" campaign, he claimed that "Arabs stabbed us in the back was a lie." Not even the Arabs claim they did not revolt against the Ottomans in alliance with Western powers.


If none of that is enough to convince Erdogan he should read some credible polling results. Taha Akyol, a prominent Turkish columnist, recently noted some research conducted by the pollster Zogby in 2016. The poll found that 67% of Egyptians, 65% of Saudis, 59% of UAE citizens, and 70% of Iraqis had an unfavorable opinion of Turkey. Do not tell Erdogan, but if "polling" had existed a century ago, the numbers might have been even worse.                                            




Prof. Efraim Inbar

Israel Hayom, Dec. 24, 2017


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostility toward Israel can be puzzling at times. When his Justice and Development (AKP) party rose to power through democratic elections in 2002, ties with Israel had been solid for a number of years. Erdogan visited Israel himself in 2005. His government purchased weapons from and held joint military maneuvers with Israel. Under Erdogan, Turkey attempted to serve as mediator between Israel and Syria and expressed interest in collaborating with Israel on projects to benefit Palestinians. Economic ties between the two countries continue to flourish, and Turkey's official airline operates around 10 flights per day between Tel Aviv and Istanbul. The reasons for the change can be found in Erdogan's personality and Turkey's strategic environment. Erdogan has acquired status and unprecedented political power, and he is fearlessly working to realize his personal preferences in both Turkey's domestic and foreign policies.


Erdogan's treatment of the Jewish state stems from his negative opinion of Jews in general. Erdogan had issues with anti-Semitic remarks in the past, which stem from his Islamist education and the anti-Jewish atmosphere in Islamist circles in Turkey. Many in those circles believe that the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was secretly a Jew. They see Jews as having been a central agent in Turkey's process of secularization under Ataturk, a process they consider destructive. Therefore, Jews are the bitter enemy sabotaging Turkey's Muslim identity. A shrewd politician, Erdogan is aware that his anti-Semitic positions earn him praise that translates to votes come election time. Opinion polls from the previous decade indicate that around half of all Turks do not want a Jewish neighbor and believe Jews are disloyal to the state. In Turkey, anti-Semitic sentiments are no longer politically incorrect.


Another important factor behind the poor relations between the two countries is Turkey's desire to wield influence in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. Turkey's foreign policy has broken off from the Kemalist outlook that saw ties with Middle Eastern states as a cultural and political burden, and Turkey now draws more from its imperial Ottoman heritage. Under Erdogan, Muslim identity plays a large part in Turkey's foreign policy. The desire to become a regional and global leader demands that Turkey lower the profile of its relations with Israel.


At the same time, Turkey is distancing itself from the West, and the United States in particular. With the fall of the Soviet Union, there is less strategic need for NATO membership, especially given EU opposition to Turkey joining the organization. Alongside a weakened EU, America's diminished presence in the Middle East under former President Barack Obama and now under President Donald Trump has bolstered the Turkish trend of deviating from the West in its policy on Israel. And yet Turkey maintains diplomatic ties and excellent financial ties with Israel, which has a vested interest in ties with as important a Muslim state as Turkey. While Israel cannot let Erdogan's attacks slide, its response must differentiate between Turkish society and its popular but problematic leader.


The struggle for Turkey's identity is not over. Only half of all Turks voted for Erdogan in the last elections. In the Middle East, countries that can afford to oppose Erdogan are few and far between. Turkey and Iran are historic rivals, and tensions between them also stem from the Sunni-Shiite divide. Today, Turkey cooperates with Iran, largely out of both countries' concern over Kurdish nationalism and the Muslim character of their foreign policies. In the future, Turkey may decide to oppose Iran's expansion and as a result improve ties with Israel. The international reality is fluid, and Israel must keep all options open.



On Topic Links


Trump Sharply Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria: Gardiner Harris, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2018—Simmering tensions between Turkey and the United States spilled into the open on Wednesday as President Trump warned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the growing risk of conflict between the two nations. The Turkish president, for his part, demanded that the United States end its support for Kurdish militias.

Watching Turkey's Descent into Islamist Dictatorship: Andrew Harrod, Algemeiner, Jan. 2, 2018—"Deep trouble" in Turkey's relationships with Europe and the United States was a recurring theme in the December address of Michael Meier — representative to America and Canada for Germany's Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), or the Foundation for Social Democracy. His introduction to the Middle East Institute (MEI) and FES' eighth annual Turkey Conference, at Washington, DC's National Press Club was an appropriately gloomy preface to the discussion of Turkey's troubled past and present.

Turkey is Becoming New Hub for Salafist-Jihadi Exodus from Syria: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Jan. 8, 2018—As the Islamic State (IS) has lost territory in Syria and Iraq, and as efforts are being made to separate radical elements from moderate Sunni opposition groups in and around Idlib, the violent Salafist-jihadi networks are migrating to Turkey.

Turkey’s Expansionist Military Policies in the Middle East: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Jan. 24, 2018—While Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East have been under the world’s magnifying glass, Turkey has been silently projecting its military presence in the area to such an extent it has become a source of worry to the “moderate” Arab states and specifically to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.





Will the US Betray the Syrian Kurds?: Gwynne Dyer, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2018— Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an angry man at the best of times, but on Monday he outdid himself…

Breaking the Syrian Stalemate: Irina Tsukerman, BESA, Jan. 11, 2018— The US is currently at a great disadvantage in Syria.

Hezbollah's Reign of Terror: From Beirut and Beyond: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Jan. 21, 2018— The trial of two Hezbollah operatives accused of blowing up an Israeli tour bus in 2012, killing five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver, kicked off this week in Sofia.

The Fiction that Destabilizes the Middle East: Evelyn Gordon, Jewish Press, Jan. 16, 2018— If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah.


On Topic Links


Pence Addresses Israeli Parliament (Video): Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2018

DEBATE: What Are the Implications of the Russian-Turkish Rapprochement?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Jan. 21, 2018

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People's Bread?: Yves Mamou, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 4, 2018

Israeli Experts Weigh in on Obama-Hezbollah Revelation: Michael Friedson, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017




Gwynne Dyer

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2018


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an angry man at the best of times, but on Monday he outdid himself: “This is what we have to say to all our allies: Don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences.” That was a barely veiled threat that he will use force against American troops if they try to stop him from attacking the Syrian Kurds. The iron law of international politics in the Middle East is that everybody betrays the Kurds. It was on display again in Iraq last October when the Baghdad government seized almost half the territory ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government.


In obedience to that unwritten law, nobody else objected – including the United States, even though it had armed the Iraqi Kurds to fight ISIS. But now the US government has effectively told the Syrian Kurds that they can keep the huge chunk of Syria they control for the indefinite future. And the Turkish government, predictably, has gone ballistic. In President Erdogan’s book, any Kurd with a gun in his hand is a “terrorist,” and the Syrian Kurds are a “terror army.” In fact, they played the main role, under US air cover, in destroying the Syrian base of the real terrorists: Islamic State. As a result, the army the Kurds dominate, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), now controls almost half of Syria’s territory.


It’s the northeastern, relatively empty part of Syria, with less than one-fifth of the country’s population, but it includes all of Syria’s border with Iraq and almost all its border with Turkey. On Sunday, Washington confirmed it will help the SDF create a new 30,000-member “border security force” over the next several years to police those borders – and also the “internal” border between Kurdish-controlled Syria and the rest of the country. The “rest of the country” is now mostly back under the control of Bashar Assad’s regime after six years of civil war, thanks largely to the intervention of the Russian Air Force and Iranian militias. Both Moscow and Tehran immediately accused the United States of planning to partition Syria, and there is some substance in the accusation.


Washington is indeed creating a Kurdish-ruled protectorate in northeast Syria, and has declared that 2,000 US troops will stay there indefinitely – or to be more precise: until progress has been made in the UN-led peace talks in Geneva and it is certain that Islamic State has been permanently defeated – which is another way of saying indefinitely.


The main purpose of this sudden escalation in the US commitment in Syria is presumably to stop the Russians from winning a total victory in the country. The Syrian regime, of course, has denounced the plan as a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty – but Turkey is the only country threatening to kill Americans over it. The Kurds always get betrayed because what they really want is an independent Kurdistan that includes all 20 million Kurds. But to create that, the four most powerful countries in the region – Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq – would all have to be partially dismantled. Those powers will do whatever it takes to prevent that.


Erdogan restarted the war with Turkey’s own Kurdish separatists two years ago, mainly for electoral advantage. But he really is fanatical on the subject. He is convinced that the Syrian Kurdish organization, the YFP – which he is determined to destroy – is really just a branch of Turkey’s own PKK (which does have a terrorist past).


The declaration of a de facto American protectorate over the Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria only makes the matter more urgent in Erdogan’s eyes. “A country we call an ally [the US] is insisting on forming a terror army on our border,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara on Monday. “What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.” That’s nonsense. The Syrian Kurds are not terrorists, they are American allies. And when the Turkish Army first attacked Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria last spring, US troops – flying very large American flags – drove in front of the Kurdish lines to protect their allies from Turkish fire.


What Erdogan meant in our first quotation was: Next time, if American soldiers and flags obstruct Turkish operations, they will be blown away. Does he mean it? He may not know himself, but his army is going to move into several parts of Syrian Kurdish territory this week or next. Turkish artillery is already softening up the targets. But the likelihood of a shooting war between Turks and Americans remains very low. Like Obama before him, Trump is pursuing a policy in Syria that is not backed up by enough force to make it credible. Everybody assumes he is bluffing and will betray the Syrian Kurds in the end. For the peace of the world, it’s probably better that he does.




Irina Tsukerman

BESA, Jan. 11, 2018


The US is currently at a great disadvantage in Syria. Despite blaming its increasing irrelevancy in the region on the Obama administration’s inaction in pursuit of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Trump White House chose to box itself into a corner by disregarding sage advice that would have significantly shifted the calculus of power. Rather than supporting the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, preventing Iran from building a land corridor connecting it to the Mediterranean, and thereby making it more difficult for Lebanon’s Hezbollah to smuggle weapons and people in and out, the Trump administration chose a strategy that empowered Tehran’s proxy, Baghdad; allowed Moscow to emerge as the great dealmaker; and served Turkey’s interests with respect to the Kurdish issue in Syria.


Without the land corridor, Iran would have been geographically poorly positioned to expand in the direction of Central Asia, or indeed anywhere else. Instead, it is now in the best possible position to do so. Furthermore, Bashar Assad has called US-backed groups traitors, and, echoing President Putin, asked American and Turkish troops to leave.


The Pentagon says a US presence will remain in Syria indefinitely, but should Iran and Russia-backed Assad turn serious, US troops might find themselves having to fight enemies on several fronts. It is unclear why the US, which has essentially accepted the premises that ISIS is finished and other terrorist groups are either subdued or subordinate to state actors, chooses to remain in the area without a clear plan to remove Iranian proxies. Washington seems to have no action plan to deal with Iran, though it is certainly a threat.


Assad is a pawn of Iran and Russia. Tehran is looking to get rid of him; Moscow is amenable to his staying – at least for now. Assad is content with his remaining fiefdom so long as the various groups that have subdivided Syria pay their dues, recognize Syrian sovereignty, and don’t create additional problems. Iran is getting exactly what it wanted: a land corridor to suit its expansionist plans, and a naval base that will give it access to strategic waterways. Once its navy becomes fully operational, it can then fight to deny access to everyone else. Resource-poor Syria was likely never the end unto itself for Tehran, but rather a means towards outward expansion.


The mullahs do not care how many countries are brought to ruin so long as their path is smooth and their access to the outside world guaranteed. That Tehran does not have complete control over Syria at the moment is irrelevant. Its object is not to lord it over Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and assorted others, but to assert Iranian hegemony and break through the sanctions and obstacles by finding new routes and creating new alliances. Iran’s Iraqi militias are spoiling for a fight. They are a battle-hardened, increasingly serious force against largely untrained Gulf troops who also lack proper intelligence training. Iran feels so much in control of the situation that it is looking to completely coopt the KRG in exchange for peace.


Russia is unquestionably the biggest winner of all. It has established itself as a credible power broker; has outsmarted and manipulated both the Obama and the Trump administrations; and is building a naval base, despite Russia’s poor internal economy, sanctions, and increasing loss of legitimacy in the West. It has returned to its former sphere of influence and is setting the rules of the game.


Moscow is also is very good at taking advantage of strategic errors made by others. Ankara, for example, which managed to ruin its relations with Assad early on in the civil war, will now have a great deal of trouble imposing its will inside the country. Russia is successfully building a relationship with the Syrian Kurds and assuming a protectorate over them even as Turkey seeks to isolate the YPG and deny the Kurds legitimacy in their struggle for autonomy. Russia is succeeding at bringing the Kurds to the table in peace process negotiations, something Turkey sought to deny…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    





Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Jan. 21, 2018


The trial of two Hezbollah operatives accused of blowing up an Israeli tour bus in 2012, killing five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver, kicked off this week in Sofia. The suspects, Meliad Farah and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, are being tried in absentia after fleeing to Lebanon, which refuses to extradite them despite Interpol warrants for their arrest.


This comes against the backdrop of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement last week of the formation of a new task force to combat Hezbollah’s vast drug trafficking and money laundering empire, worth an estimated $1 billion annually. That decision followed a Politico report claiming that the Obama administration interfered with a Drug Enforcement Agency initiative—code-named Project Cassandra—to crack down on the Iranian-sponsored Shi'ite organization's illicit activities for fear of jeopardizing the nuclear deal with Iran.


Concurrently, the British House of Commons is slated on January 25 to discuss fully blacklisting Hezbollah, whose so-called "political arm" has until now been allowed to fundraise and recruit in major European capitals in a successful attempt to bifurcate the terrorist organization into legitimate civic and martial elements. While Israel, the US and, most recently, the Arab League have listed Hezbollah, in its entirety, as a terror group, the European Union, like the UK, banned only the organization's "military wing" in the wake of the Burgas attack. "While European governments have outlawed Hezbollah's armed body, this has no distinction because, as Hezbollah itself says, it is a monolithic organization," Benjamin Weinthal, a Fellow at the Washington-based Foundation For Defense of Democracies, explained to The Media Line. "In this respect, the Europeans have engaged in a sort of savvy appeasement of Hezbollah because they are afraid of it."


Hezbollah was created by the Iranian regime in the early 1980s, foremost to counter Israel’s presence at the time in southern Lebanon. However, its hatred for the West quickly manifested in the 1983 attack on American military barracks in Beirut which killed 241 US Marines and 58 French peacekeepers. In the ensuing decades Hezbollah has effectively taken control of the Lebanese government while developing into one of the Middle East’s most powerful military forces, currently engaged in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.


According to Professor Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, "Hezbollah uses Arab communities abroad to make inroads not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe, South America and even Asia. They are there to establish cells that will eventually attack Jewish and Israeli targets," he told The Media Line, while noting that "Hezbollah's Islamic ideological underpinnings also motivate its expansion." Inbar further explained that while Hezbollah's overarching policies are coordinated by Iran, its local branches maintain freedom of action.


"Unit 133, for example, primarily focuses on the West Bank where it recruits local Palestinians, transfers them funds and then provides online training [on how to conduct attacks]," Yaakov Lappin, an Associate Researcher at Israel's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Media Line. "It also has links to Sinai and Jordan and, [more broadly], has cells across the Middle East which promote terrorism against Israeli targets. The unit is a major concern of the Israeli intelligence community," he expounded, "and also is reportedly involved in drug trafficking, [which is] a source of financing."


In Germany, there are an estimated 1,000 Hezbollah members currently operating, with reports suggesting that additional combatants have been infiltrating the country by posing as Mideast refugees. This is part and parcel of Iran's attempt to further penetrate the continent, with German police this week having conducted wide-scale raids targeting members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds [Jerusalem] Force, who were reportedly conducting surveillance on Israeli and Jewish targets. Weinthal traces these developments to 1992, when Iranian and Hezbollah agents killed four Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. While German authorities accused the highest levels of the Iranian government of complicity in the attack, the two countries reportedly reached a quid pro quo deal in which Tehran and Hezbollah would cease perpetrating violent attacks on German soil in exchange for being permitted to freely operate in the country.


Another contributing factor, Weinthal noted, is that "Europeans are so invested in the Iran nuclear deal that they do not want to act against its wholly owned subsidiary, Hezbollah. This is similar to why the Obama administration turned a blind eye to Hezbollah's illicit activities." To this end, (the) terror group is actively engaged in drug trafficking throughout the Americas, from the Tri-Border Area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge, to Mexico, where it cooperates with local drug cartels. Using these funds along with those generated from sophisticated money laundering schemes, Hezbollah and, as a corollary, its patron Tehran, have been able to buy political influence throughout the region.


This was made evident by the previous Argentine government's attempted cover-up of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish AMIA community center in Buenos Aires, which followed the bombing of the Israeli Embassy two years earlier. An investigation into the attacks, which together killed over 100 people, was stymied for decades until, in 2015, federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was slated to testify before a congressional panel that then-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had concealed facts about Iran's and Hezbollah's involvement. Hours before Nisman was set to reveal his findings—including that in exchange for Kirchner's compliance, the Islamic Republic would supply her government with a steady stream of cheap oil—he was found shot to death in his apartment in what was first ruled a suicide but eventually reclassified as a murder.


The apparent assassination garnered global headlines and "caused a growing awareness in the West of Hezbollah's negative actions," Inbar stated, before qualifying to The Media Line that "there remains a big gap between existing legal frameworks, which place an emphasis on upholding human rights, and the [steps required] to crack down on terrorist groups." For his part, US President Donald Trump appears committed to bridging this gap by pressing Congress to pass stronger sanctions on Hezbollah. The American administration also directed the Treasury Department to place multi-million-dollar bounties on senior Hezbollah leaders, in a bid to hamper its illegal infrastructure…

 [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]   





Evelyn Gordon

Jewish Press, Jan. 16, 2018


If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah. The Western foreign policy establishment maintains this fiction out of good intentions; it wants to protect innocent Lebanese from suffering the consequences of Hezbollah’s military provocations against its neighbors. But this policy has enabled Hezbollah to devastate several neighboring countries with impunity, and it’s paving the way to a war that will devastate Lebanon itself.


Sheltering Lebanon from the consequences of Hezbollah’s behavior is both a bipartisan and a transatlantic consensus. This was evident from the West’s wall-to-wall outrage in November, when Saudi Arabia abortively tried to end the pretense that Hezbollah doesn’t rule Lebanon by pressuring the organization’s fig leaf, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, to resign. The International Support Group for Lebanon, which includes the U.S., UN, European Union, Arab League, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, China, and Russia, issued a statement demanding that Lebanon be “shielded from tensions in the region.” The State Department’s acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, demanded that Saudi Arabia “explain why Riyadh was destabilizing Lebanon.” French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed it vital that Lebanon remains “disassociated” from regional crises. And the list goes on.


Yet the West has shown no similar concern for shielding the many Mideast countries which Lebanon’s de facto ruling party has destabilized for years. Thousands of Hezbollah troops have fought in Syria’s civil war, helping the Assad regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Hezbollah also has troops in Yemen to support the Houthi rebels in that country’s civil war, and it may have been involved in firing missiles from Yemen at Saudi Arabia. It has trained Shi’ite militias in Iraq and fought alongside them. And, of course, it has built an arsenal of some 150,000 missiles–bigger than that of most conventional armies–for eventual use against Israel.


Granted, Hezbollah isn’t Lebanon’s official ruling party; it’s part of a coalition government led by Hariri, who actually belongs to a rival party. But not only does Hezbollah have official veto power over all government decisions, it’s also the country’s dominant military force. Hariri has no power to stop Hezbollah from sending its troops all over the region; he can’t even stop it from doing as it pleases within Lebanon itself. One small example perfectly illustrates his impotence. In early December, Qais al-Khazali, the head of an Iraqi Shi’ite militia, was videotaped accompanying Hezbollah operatives to the Lebanese-Israeli border and proclaiming his militia’s willingness to help Hezbollah fight Israel. Hariri termed the visit a “flagrant violation” of Lebanese law and ordered the Lebanese army to make sure no such incident recurred. A few weeks later, as if to underscore Hariri’s powerlessness, Hezbollah took another senior commander from a Syrian Shi’ite militia to the border for a similar videotaped pledge.


Yet despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the West has insisted on maintaining the fiction that Lebanon is somehow independent of Hezbollah rather than ruled by it. And in so doing, Western countries have actually enabled Hezbollah’s aggression. Thanks to this fiction, the West gives hundreds of millions of dollars in both civilian and military aid to Lebanon. Civilian aid, of which the EU has provided over $1 billion in recent years, frees Hezbollah of the need to pay for the consequences of its actions, like caring for the 1.1 million Syrian refugees its own aggression helped drive from Syria into Lebanon. American military aid, of which Lebanon is the world’s sixth-largest recipient, has given Hezbollah access to training, intelligence, equipment and other military capabilities, since the Lebanese army shares everything it receives with the organization, whether willingly or under compulsion from Hezbollah’s greater strength…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links


Pence Addresses Israeli Parliament (Video): Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2018—Vice President Pence delivers a speech to the Israeli parliament.

DEBATE: What Are the Implications of the Russian-Turkish Rapprochement?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Jan. 21, 2018—Q: In the aftermath of the failed coup d’état of July 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is embarking on an attempt to improve Ankara’s relations with non-Western countries to avoid international isolation. The Russian-Turkish rapprochement is a characteristic example.

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People's Bread?: Yves Mamou, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 4, 2018—In the holy city of Qom in Iran, on December 30, 2017, anti-regime demonstrators shouted "Death to Hezbollah", "Aren't you ashamed Khamenei? Get out of Syria and take care of us", and "Not Gaza, or Lebanon".

Israeli Experts Weigh in on Obama-Hezbollah Revelation: Michael Friedson, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017—US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is launching a review of a US Drug Enforcement Administration investigation code-named Project Cassandra, after Politico reported that the Obama administration covertly derailed the inquiry into Hezbollah's illicit global activities in order to ink the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.







Turkey Islamizes Denmark with More Mosques: Judith Bergman, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 20, 2017— "Islam cannot be either 'moderate' or 'not moderate.'

Erdoğan’s Kurdish Gambit: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Nov. 15, 2017— In 2015, soon after the Turkish people went to the ballot box, the main Kurdish insurgency group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), ended a ceasefire it had declared two years prior.

In Erdogan’s Post-Coup Turkey, Anti-Semitism is on the Rise: Sophia Pandya, Tablet, Oct. 19, 2017 — On a visit to Turkey in 2011, I visited the Belek “Garden of Tolerance,” where a diminutive mosque, church, and synagogue are housed close together in an emerald-green park…

Portents of Quagmires in Syria: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 23, 2017— Is the war in Syria won?


On Topic Links


Turkey: Trial of Banker is Plot Schemed by US-Based Cleric: Suzan Fraser, Fox News, Nov. 30, 2017

Turkey Rejects "Moderate Islam": Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 30, 2017

Some Urgent Questions About Turkey: Editorial, New York Times, Oct. 13, 2017

Turkey’s Bluster Exposes its Delusions of Grandeur: Simon Waldman, Globe and Mail, Oct. 11, 2017





Judith Bergman

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 20, 2017


"Islam cannot be either 'moderate' or 'not moderate.' Islam can only be one thing," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on November 9. "Recently the concept of 'moderate Islam' has received attention. But the patent of this concept originated in the West… They are now trying to pump up this idea again. What they really want to do is weaken Islam…"


Erdogan is working on strengthening Islam in the West, something he does, among other ways, by building Turkish mosques in Western countries. It is hardly surprising that he does not want the West to "weaken Islam", but at the moment there seems little risk of that happening. The establishment of Turkish mosques in Western countries appears to be proceeding apace with very little opposition. Conversely, building Western churches in Turkey is inconceivable.


Erdogan clearly sees Turks living in the West as a spearhead of Islam. "Yes, integrate yourselves into German society but don't assimilate yourselves. No one has the right to deprive us of our culture and our identity", Erdogan told Turks in Germany as early as 2011. This year, he told Turks living in the West: "Go live in better neighborhoods. Drive the best cars. Live in the best houses. Make not three, but five children. Because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you."


Erdogan is evidently working to ensure, by continuously building new mosques and expanding old ones across Europe, that Muslims will indeed be the future of the continent. One Western country where Erdogan is ramping up Islam is Denmark. Two new Turkish mosques are about to open in the Danish cities of Roskilde and Holbæk; in the past year, two Turkish mosques opened in the cities of Fredericia and Aarhus. New Turkish mosques were opened in Ringsted and Hedehusene in 2013; and in Køge the existing mosque opened a cultural center. There are 27 Turkish mosques in Denmark; eight of them are expanding or wish to expand.


The new mosque in Roskilde, complete with minarets, is owned by Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). The inclusion of minarets is due to second- and third-generation Turkish immigrants, who wanted the mosque to look like a "proper mosque". "It is a general trend in all of Europe that Diyanet is expanding physically with new mosques, and through [the mosques] also religiously, politically and culturally" said professor Samim Akgönül, of the university of Strasbourg. He has analyzed the Friday sermons that Diyanet sends to mosques all over Europe; his analyses show that the sermons are full of political and nationalistic messages favoring Erdogan's regime.


According to Tuncay Yilmaz, chairman of the board of Roskilde's Ayasofya Mosque, "Diyanet is not political, I can promise you that. Obviously they belong to the Turkish state, but they are independent of the government". That statement is false. Diyanet is an agency of the Turkish government — and an extremely active one. As Gatestone's Burak Bekdil has noted:


"In a briefing for a parliamentary commission, Diyanet admitted that it gathered intelligence via imams from 38 countries on the activities of suspected followers of the US-based preacher Fetullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accused of being the mastermind of the attempted coup on July 15… Diyanet said its imams gathered intelligence and prepared reports from Abkhazia, Germany, Albania, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan and Ukraine".


In Denmark, nonetheless, the newest Turkish-state mosque was welcomed with open arms. The mayor of Roskilde, Joy Mogensen, who knew that the Turkish government owned the mosque, participated in the ceremony of laying the foundation stone in February 2016. She claims that the very fact that she and the city's bishop were invited to the ceremony meant that there were "good people" in the mosque working for "integration" — otherwise they would not have allowed "a Christian woman like myself without a headscarf" to participate in their ceremony…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]






Burak Bekdil

BESA, Nov. 15, 2017


In 2015, soon after the Turkish people went to the ballot box, the main Kurdish insurgency group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), ended a ceasefire it had declared two years prior. Just a few months earlier, there had been hope for peace. Even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s fiercest critics praised him when he bravely launched a difficult process meant to finally bring peace to a country that had lost 40,000 people to ethnic strife. His government negotiated with the Kurds and granted them broader cultural and political rights, which his predecessors had not. The PKK would finally say farewell to arms.


Instead, it took up arms once again. Since July 2015, Turkish (and Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish) cities have again become battlegrounds in an almost century-old Turkish-Kurdish dispute. Kurdish militants have attacked security forces countless times since then, while the Turkish military has buried fallen soldiers and raided Kurdish guerrilla camps in northern Iraq as well as inside Turkey. Reports of casualties on both sides are a regularity most Turks now grudgingly ignore.


Erdoğan, an Islamist, had miscalculated again. He had thought he could solve the dispute through his usual “religious lens.” He would use Islam as the glue to keep Muslim Turks and Muslim Kurds united, because after all, why should they fight? They are all Sunni Muslims. Erdoğan believed Islam had to take a central role if a historic end to the conflict was to be achieved – one in which the Kurds would surrender their arms and live peacefully with their Turkish Muslim brothers. He wished, accordingly, to restructure Turkey along multi-ethnic lines, but with a greater role for Islam. But he relied too much on religion to resolve what is essentially an ethnic conflict. The experiment resulted in sprays of bombs, suicide attacks, bullets, rockets, and coffins.


The parliamentary elections that took place on June 7, 2015 marked a radical shift for Erdoğan from his usual religious nationalism to ethnic nationalism (both of which have always been part of his ideological policy calculus, to varying degrees). On that date, his Justice and Development Party (AKP), after having sought peace with the Kurds for the previous two years, lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since it came to power in November 2002. With 41% of the national vote (compared with 49.8% in the 2011 general elections), the AKP won eighteen fewer seats than were necessary to form a single-party government in Turkey’s 550-member parliament. More importantly, its seat tally fell widely short of the minimum number needed to rewrite the constitution in such a way as to introduce an executive presidential system that would give Erdoğan almost uncontrolled powers.


Amid a fresh wave of Kurdish violence, Erdoğan gambled on new elections, calculating that the uptick in instability and insecurity would push frightened voters towards single-party rule. His gamble paid off. The elections of November 1, 2015 gave the AKP a comfortable victory and a mandate to rule until 2019. His new ethnic nationalist and anti-Kurdish policy won hearts and minds among Turkish nationalists. They then proceeded, two years later, to support constitutional amendments that paved the way for Erdoğan’s ultimate goal of one-man rule.


Between June 7 and November 1, 2015, Erdoğan’s AKP increased its votes by nearly nine percentage points. More than four points of that rise came from votes from its nationalistic rival, the Nationalist Movement Party, which shares more or less the same voter base with the AKP. Even some Kurds, weary of renewed violence, shifted from a pro-Kurdish party (for which they had voted on June 7) to the AKP (on November 1).


Since 2015, Erdoğan has been enjoying the fruits of his newfound ethnic nationalism. He has ordered the security forces to fight the PKK “till they finish it off,” and has pursued hawkish politics via the judiciary he controls. Several leading Kurdish MPs are now in jail on terrorism charges. More than 1,400 academics who signed a petition “for peace” have been prosecuted and/or dismissed from their universities. Talking about Kurdish rights is now almost tantamount to bombing a square in Istanbul.


Across Turkey’s Syrian and Iraqi borders, Erdoğan has also recalibrated his policy in line with a reprioritizing of security threats. A Kurdish belt along Turkey’s southern borders is now perceived as the top threat – worse than ISIS, or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s pro-Shiite (and therefore anti-Sunni, anti-Turkish, and anti- Erdoğan) regime in Damascus, or the growing Shiite military presence in northern Iraq (Hashd al-Shaab). In the hope of countering what he considers the worst of all possible threats, Erdoğan is now a reluctant partner in the Russia-Iran-dominated Shiite theater in northern Iraq and Syria.


In Erdoğan’s view, the emergence of a near-state Kurdish actor in Mesopotamia would be an existential threat to Turkey. Hence his radical retaliation against the Iraqi Kurdish referendum of September 25, along with his reluctant alliance with Tehran and Tehran-controlled Baghdad. But there is more for Erdoğan to calculate. When he devises his policy calculus towards the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, he must also keep an eye on the Turkish Kurds, whose votes he will need in 2019 when Turks go once again to the ballot box. Election 2019 will be the most historic race in Erdoğan’s political career – an election he knows he cannot afford to lose. He needs every single vote, from Islamists to liberals to nationalists to Kurds. And that makes things tricky…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                





Sophia Pandya

Tablet, Oct. 19, 2017


On a visit to Turkey in 2011, I visited the Belek “Garden of Tolerance,” where a diminutive mosque, church, and synagogue are housed close together in an emerald-green park, apparently a testament of Turkey’s acceptance of other faiths…At the garden’s inauguration ceremony in 2004, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised that he would “remove any remaining obstacles to religious freedom in Turkey,” and stated that Turkey would be “the guarantor of peace and brotherhood in its region.” Unfortunately, that was a blatant lie.


According to the recently published US State Department’s Turkey 2016 International Religious Freedom Report, Turkey, along with China and Saudi Arabia, represses its religious minorities. Since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, the Turkish-Jewish community has been grappling with an uptick in anti-Semitic acts. This reflects populist (now-president) Erdoğan’s power-hungry pivot towards fascism and nativism, which involves unifying Turks through identifying scapegoats (Jews, Kurds, Alevis, and the Gülen Movement) to blame for the country’s problems. While he immediately blamed the Sufi-inspired Gülen Movement for the plot, social media users and journalists also pointed at other religious minorities, including the Ecumenical Patriarch, and, unsurprisingly, the Jews. In fact, the tension has caused many Jews to leave Turkey for Israel or elsewhere, or at least to apply for foreign passports in case a quick departure becomes necessary.


This is tragic, given the long and stable presence of Jews in the Anatolian region, which served as a haven for small confessional groups such as the Jews, who were granted refuge there by Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II during the 1492 Spanish Inquisition. During the Ottoman period, Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Bosnians and other minority communities, lived under Ottoman rule as part of the millet system, in which non-Muslim minority groups had separate legal courts and thus were able to govern themselves. During WWII, Turkey served as a safe transit and refuge for Jews fleeing the Holocaust, saving lives. Given that the global Jewish population is estimated (as of 2016) at around 14 and a half million, it is significant that approximately 18,500 Jews still reside in Turkey today, especially since Turkey is a Muslim majority country. Most live in Istanbul, and are Sephardic Jews, whose Ladino-speaking ancestors were allowed refuge during the Spanish expulsion, although a few are Ashkenazi.


Yet anthropologist Marcy Brink-Danan refers to the prevailing myth—that Jews have always lived free of discrimination in the Anatolian region—as the “tolerance trope.” During the Ottoman period Jews were respected, along with Christians, as “people of the book,” or ehl ul kitab in Turkish. However, this did not grant them equality to the Muslim majority, but rather religious accommodation, as “different yet protected” people. While the treatment of non-Muslim citizens was better than that of minorities elsewhere, it was not equitable. While Muslim men received the title of “Sir” or “Pasha,” (efendi or paşa), non-Muslim men were referred to simply by their trade. In 1942, Jews and other non-Muslims in Turkey were forced to pay a “wealth tax,” which functioned to financially weaken and thus marginalize them.


Despite celebrating (in 1992) 500 years of refuge in Turkey from the Spanish Inquisition, the Jewish community has continually faced degrees of discrimination in Turkey, also due largely to the legacy of ethnocentric and nationalistic Kemalist policies. The Republic of Turkey (established in 1923) was constructed on ideas of ethnic Turkish superiority. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the nation’s founder, used social engineering strategies towards unifying the state, which emphasized its homogeneity and “pure” Turkishness. This included the systematic violation of minority rights, expulsions, population exchanges, and the suppression of language, minority religions, and non-Turkish ethnic identities. In 1930, Atatürk’s Justice Minister Mahmut Esat Bozkurt (1882-1943), stated, “Those who are not of pure Turkish stock can have only one right in this country, the right to be servants or slaves.”


Indeed, even today many Jewish institutions in Istanbul are unmarked and protected by barbed wire and armed guards. When Turkish Jews wear or display Judaica they often do so privately, i.e., wearing a Star of David inside clothing, or hanging mezuzot inside their homes. Their indigenousness and loyalty to Turkey are challenged, and they are increasingly vulnerable to anti-Semitic attacks. For example, in 1986, twenty-two Jews were killed by Palestinians at Neve Shalom (ironically, this translates from Hebrew to “oasis of peace”), the largest synagogue in Istanbul. Subsequent attacks on synagogues include the 1992 Quincentennial anniversary attack, carried out by Hezbollah, which again took place at Neve Shalom (but with no casualties). In 2003, two car bombs exploded, one outside of Neve Shalom while approximately 400 people were inside, and the other at the back of Beit Israel Synagogue, while filled with 300 people. The blasts killed at least 20, and injured around 300 others. As recent as April of 2013, Turkish police foiled plots by al-Qaeda to bomb a synagogue in Istanbul’s Balat district. According to a 2014 poll carried out by the Anti-Defamation League, as much as seventy percent of Turkish citizens hold anti-Semitic attitudes towards Jews.


After July 15, the source of new anti-Semitic attacks does not emanate externally (i.e. Hezbollah) but from ordinary Turks, many of whom, newly emboldened to transcend “holding an attitude,” have loudly engaged in fomenting a toxic and dangerous environment for ethnic and religious minorities. The Turkey 2016 International Religious Freedom Report cites numerous instances of anti-Semitic discourse, including threats of violence, in social media and even in government-friendly media. The Neve Shalom Synagogue was again attacked by ultranationalists on July 22, 2017. Ironically, when Erdoğan attributed the putsch attempt to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Movement he inspired, this only made things worse for Jews. Some anti- Gülen forces have labelled the Muslim cleric a “crypto-Jew,” whose mother is a Jew (she is not). In December, 2016, a columnist from the government-backed Sabah, a prominent newspaper, wrote that Gülen “quickly smells of money and power. Because he is a Jew.” According to former parliamentarian Aykan Erdimir, the situation for religious minorities has “gone from bad to worse within the last year…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    




Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 23, 2017


Is the war in Syria won? The images broadcast this week from Sochi, the Russian vacation town on the Black Sea coast, were pictures of victory – for the bad guys. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stood beside his Syrian client, President Bashar Assad, who licked Putin’s boots, as well he should have. Assad owes his regime and his life to Putin.


The next day, Putin was joined by his allies – the presidents of Iran and Turkey. Hassan Rouhani and Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the pilgrimage to Sochi to stand at Putin’s side and declare victory in the war and dedicate themselves to the cause of “peace and reconciliation” in post-war Syria. To achieve their lofty goals of peace and reconciliation, Putin and his partners declared that, in the near future, Sochi will be the sight of a peace conference where all the relevant factions in Syria will be represented. The parley they described is set to take place parallel to – and one assumes at the expense of – the sixth round of Syrian reconciliation talks scheduled to take place under UN auspices next week in Geneva.


Several Israeli commentators viewed Putin’s Sochi talks precisely as he wished them to. Ehud Yaari, Reshet/Keshet’s veteran Arab affairs commentator declared: The US is finished in the Middle East! The capital of the Middle East is now located in Sochi, he proclaimed in back-to-back newscasts. In certain respects, Yaari is right. Things are looking good these days for the axis of evil. Wednesday was a particularly good day for Iran. Not only did Rouhani do his victory dance with Putin and Erdogan, but as they were showering themselves in triumph in Sochi, Iran’s Lebanese puppet, Saad Hariri, was returning to Beirut after his misadventures in Saudi Arabia. As expected, Hariri canceled the resignation he announced dramatically a week-and-a-half earlier in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after accusing Iran and its Hezbollah army of controlling Lebanon. On the surface, Hariri’s return is a boon for Iran. If he had remained in Saudi Arabia, Iran would have lost its fig leaf. Hariri’s duty as prime minister is to snow the West into believing that his government and the Lebanese Armed Forces are a counterweight to Iran and Hezbollah, even though they are controlled by Iran and Hezbollah…


As for Erdogan, he arrived in Sochi a spent force. Erdogan is perhaps the biggest loser of the war in Syria. He was the principal sponsor of the anti-Assad opposition that morphed into Islamic State. Erdogan’s cooperation owes mainly to his lack of better options. The US stopped supporting his campaign in Syria two years ago. Since the failed military coup against him in July 2016, Erdogan has become ever more hostile to the US. This hostility informed his recently concluded deal with Putin to purchase Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system. The S-400 threatens every fighter craft in the US arsenal. US officials have responded to his move by seriously considering the possibility of canceling the sale of 100 F-35s to Turkey.


Turkish expulsion from NATO – once a taboo subject – is now regularly discussed in Washington policy circles. The main reason Erdogan has sided with Putin in Syria is because the US has sided with Syria’s Kurds. Erdogan views the Syrian Kurds as a threat to the stability of his regime. He expects Putin to support his determination to destroy Kurdish autonomy in Syria. If Putin fails to meet his expectations, Erdogan may abandon his new friends. Or he may stick with them and just become ever more dependent on Putin. Whatever the case, he won’t be empowered by his membership in Pax Putin…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





On Topic Links


Turkey: Trial of Banker is Plot Schemed by US-Based Cleric: Suzan Fraser, Fox News, Nov. 30, 2017—A senior Turkish government minister on Thursday branded the New York trial of a Turkish bank executive on charges of violation of sanctions against Iran as a new attempt by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to harm Turkey's government.

Turkey Rejects "Moderate Islam": Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 30, 2017—At a conference on women's entrepreneurship, held in Ankara on November 9 and hosted by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected the concept of "moderate Islam".

Some Urgent Questions About Turkey: Editorial, New York Times, Oct. 13, 2017—Turkey has been a vital ally of the United States since World War II. It fields NATO’s second-largest army, after America’s, and anchors the alliance’s eastern flank. It hosts military bases that are central to American operations in the Middle East, including Incirlik, where some 50 tactical nuclear weapons are stationed, and serves as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West. After Recep Tayyip Erdogan took office in 2003 and began reforms, Turkey seemed on course to becoming a model Muslim democracy.

Turkey’s Bluster Exposes its Delusions of Grandeur: Simon Waldman, Globe and Mail, Oct. 11, 2017—Turkey is embroiled in yet another spat with a western country. This time, Turkey arrested a U.S. consular employee for alleged links to the Gulen movement, followers of Turkish Islamic preacher and U.S. resident Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara claims is behind last July's attempted coup. Calling the move arbitrary, the United States suspended non-immigrant visa applications, and Turkey reciprocated.


Baghdad and Tehran's Goal: The Destruction of Kurdistan: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 28, 2017— The advance of the Iran-supported Iraqi government and paramilitary forces against their Kurdish opponents moved forward this week.

Kurdish Battle Positions Kurds as US Ally Against Iran: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Oct. 27, 2017— Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, in his first comment on the military rout of his Peshmerga forces, vowed that the overwhelming vote for Kurdish independence in a controversial referendum last month “won’t be in vain.”

Israel, Don't let the Kurds Down!: Ariel Natan Pasko, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 30, 2017— It’s very ironic that all the noise about the Kurdish independence referendum…

Western Powers Must Protect Kurds, Urges Iraqi Jew Escorted to Freedom by Masoud Barzani: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Nov. 6, 2017 — For the last forty-seven years, Jamil “Jimmy” Ezra has marked a special, deeply private anniversary on September 1 with a ray of hope in his heart.


On Topic Links


Why Kurdistan Matters (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Nov. 1, 2017

How the Kurdish Quest for Independence in Iraq Backfired: Sergio Peçanha, New York Times, Nov. 5, 2017

'No Easy Path Out of This Mess:' Canada's Military Confirms it is Reviewing Plan to Arm Kurds: David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 26, 2017

Kurdistan on the Road to Desolation: LTC Sargis Sangari and Steven Weingartner, Western Free Press, Nov. 1, 2017




THE DESTRUCTION OF KURDISTAN                                                             

Jonathan Spyer

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 28, 2017


The advance of the Iran-supported Iraqi government and paramilitary forces against their Kurdish opponents moved forward this week. The Kurdish Regional Government, in a statement issued on the morning of October 25, offered to “freeze” the results of the referendum on independence conducted on September 25, in light of what it called the “grave and dangerous circumstances” currently prevailing.

The KRG proposed an “immediate cease-fire” and a halt to all military operations in the Kurdistan Region, along with the commencement of “an open dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government on the basis of the Constitution.” The proposal was swiftly rejected. The spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces, the Iran-backed Shi’a militias, described it as “worthless.” The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wants the total annulment of the referendum’s results.


The KRG’s proposal had a certain feel of desperation about it. And not by chance. The Kurdish predicament in the north of Iraq today is indeed grave. The full dimensions of the Iraqi government and its backers’ intentions regarding the future of Iraqi Kurdistan have not been precisely announced. Rather, the preferred dimension in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi representatives like to operate is one of carefully fostered confusion and ambiguity.


But as the fighting continues, it is beginning to become apparent that the ambitions of Baghdad and its backers go beyond merely a return to the pre-2014 status quo. Rather, the intention appears to be to prevent any further notion of secession – by crippling the KRG militarily and economically and taking control of the nodes connecting it to the outside world. This policy has proceeded along a number of axes in the month since the referendum. Its application began immediately following the vote, with the abrupt and unexpected announcement of the closure of the airports at Erbil and Suleimaniya to international traffic. The announcement led to a rushed exit for many foreigners who had come to observe the referendum. The airports were closed on September 29.


The second phase was the move into Kirkuk Province. The Iraqi Army and Shi’a militias attacked the city on October 14. With the fall of Alton Kupri, just 50 kilometers southeast of the KRG’s capital in Erbil, on October 20, the Iraqis secured their control of the province. In so doing, they cut the oil production capacity of the KRG by 50% with a single stroke. Government forces have not at this stage attempted to move into Erbil Province. Rather, the action is shifting westward, to the Iraqi-Syrian border area and the effort by the Iraqis to cut the KRG’s land links to the outside.


On October 17, Iraqi forces, led by the Interior Ministry troops of the Federal Police, seized the Rabia border crossing, which had constituted the main land link between the KRG in Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish-controlled area, known as Rojava or the Federation of Northern Syria. Iraqi forces have continued northward in recent days. They are now located just south of the Tigris River. To the northeast is the Fish-Khabur-Semalka border crossing, which links the KRG and Rojava by way of a bridge and barges. It is the last link between the two Kurdish entities.


The vital Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline also runs through the village of Fish-Khabur. The Iraqis appear determined to secure control of both the pipeline and the border crossing. If they do so, they may then continue northeast toward the Khabur/Ibrahim Khalil crossing, just a few kilometers further east. This is the last open link between the KRG and Turkey. Its loss would cut the KRG off from the outside world, making travel to it possible only by way of Iraq itself and sealing the Kurds in. Further south along the long front line, the Kurdish Peshmerga are clashing with the Iraqis in the area of Telskop and Baqofa, and further south again in the area of Makhmur (the latter area includes also the KRG’s main oil field at Khurmala). Reports concerning the direction and extent of the fighting are confused and unreliable. The Peshmerga are claiming to have stalled the advancing Iraqis at various parts of the line.


Information is emerging, meanwhile, of large-scale ethnic cleansing of Kurds in the area of Tuz Khurmatu near Kirkuk, after the entry of Shi’a militias on October 16. Nearly 35,000 civilians have fled the area over the last 10 days. Lynn Maalouf, director of research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, described the situation in the following terms, in a statement on the Amnesty website: “Thousands have lost their homes, shops and everything they owned. They are now scattered in nearby camps, villages and cities, wondering whether they will ever be able to return.” A number of Kurdish civilians have been killed in random attacks.


So as of now, the emerging picture is one in which the Iraqi government and Iranian client forces have set their war aim as the reduction of the Kurdish Regional Government to the status of a broken, divided, dependent and surrounded entity, lacking links to the outside world and with emphatically no remaining hopes of secession or self-determination. That is, an attempt is under way to reverse the gains made by the Iraqi Kurds over the last 25 years. Should such a goal be achieved, it would represent an impressive victory – for Baghdad, certainly, but more profoundly for Tehran and for the methods of the IRGC/Quds Force and its leader, Soleimani.


It would also be recorded by all regional forces as a resounding defeat for the West, and conclusive evidence that it pays little to be aligned with the US and its allies in the Middle East, since when the crunch comes, you will be on your own. The assault by the Shi’a militias and the Iraqis, it should be noted as a final irony, is being carried out largely with US-supplied weapons. The days and weeks ahead promise to be fateful ones, primarily for the Iraqi Kurds, certainly, but also for the broader power balance in the region. Baghdad and Tehran’s goal at present appears to be the defeat and effective destruction of the KRG in Iraqi Kurdistan.                                                           




Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, Oct. 27, 2017


Kurdish President Massoud Barzani, in his first comment on the military rout of his Peshmerga forces, vowed that the overwhelming vote for Kurdish independence in a controversial referendum last month “won’t be in vain.” Refusing to take responsibility for the rout, Barzani blamed the Kurdish predicament on his political rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which allegedly ordered the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from Kirkuk.


Technically, that may well be correct. An Iranian Revolutionary Guard general and close associate of Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani known as Eqbalpour, accompanied by two Iraqi military commanders, reportedly met on the eve of the Iraqi assault on Kirkuk with Kurdish officers in the offices of the PUK in the city. Eqbalpour urged the Kurds to surrender the city peacefully. “If you resist, we will crush you and you will lose everything,” he warned, pointing to a map that detailed how the Iraqi assault would unfold. “This is our military plan. We will hit you tonight from three points — here, here, and here,” Eqbalpour said. His Kurdish interlocutors agreed to withdraw.


The Kurdish withdrawal, which prompted a Kurdish exodus from the city, was a stab in the back of the PUK’s arch rival, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) headed by Barzani. It has sparked a wave of popular anger against Iran that could complicate any effort to negotiate a compromise between the Kurds and the government in Baghdad of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has vowed to ensure Iraq’s territorial integrity.


Iranian involvement in the Iraqi blitzkrieg has also sparked anger in the US Congress even though the US, which enabled Kurdish autonomy within Iraq, vowed to remain neutral in the Kurdish-Iraqi dispute. In response to the alleged use of US-built Abrams tanks and Humvees against the Kurds by Iranian-backed Shiite militias (the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU), congressmen threatened to impose an arms embargo on Iraq, now that the Islamic State has effectively lost control of any territory in the country. To put this position in context, the US provides an estimated $1 billion in annual military assistance to Iraq and has designated some elements of the PMU as terrorist organizations.


In a statement, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain called on Iraqi forces to “take immediate steps to de-escalate this volatile situation by ceasing their advances. I am especially concerned by media reports that Iranian and Iranian-backed forces are part of the assault. Make no mistake, there will be severe consequences if we continue to see American equipment misused in this way,” McCain said.


McCain’s words were echoed by Rep. Trent Franks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, who introduced a resolution in Congress supporting Kurdish independence. “I urge Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi to fulfil his pledge to prevent any external or internal attack against the Kurds and prove Baghdad is not the puppet of Tehran. Otherwise, the US will have no other choice but to pull funding as it cannot in good conscience send money to an Iranian patsy working to subvert American interests,” Franks said.


Despite Iraqi denials that the PMU have access to US weaponry, Kurdish emphasis on the role in Kirkuk of the Iranian-backed militia and assertions of the use of Abrams tanks and Humvees were designed to garner US support. Iraq’s embassy in Washington charged that the claims constituted “a concerted misinformation campaign by elements in the Kurdish region to cover up their sinister actions in attempting to disrupt the coordinated and professional movements of the Iraqi security forces.” The Kurdish assertions amounted to an attempt to make it difficult for the US Department of Defense to certify, in accordance with US law, that Iraq has ensured that US military assistance does not fall into the hands of extremist groups, which would include those elements of the PMU that have been designated as terrorist by the State Department.


The Kurdish position, beyond the immediate politicking that aims to weaken Iraq’s position in any future negotiation and garner US sympathy if not support, also positions the Kurds as a potential US ally in any upcoming attempt to counter Iranian influence in Iraq or destabilize the Islamic Republic with the help of ethnic groups that populate its borders. President Trump signaled his tougher approach towards Iran earlier this month by refusing to certify that Iran was complying with the terms of the two-year-old nuclear agreement, opening the door to a lifting of international sanctions. A potential re-imposition of sanctions by Congress in the next sixty days could throw the accord into jeopardy.


US and Saudi officials have repeatedly hinted at the possibility of attempting to achieve regime change in Iran. The Kurds, like the Baloch in Pakistan, could play a key role in any such effort. It is a strategy that would likely exploit anti-Iranian sentiment among Kurds in the wake of the Iraqi blitzkrieg; enjoy support from Israel, which has already publicly come out in favor of Kurdish independence; and build on past US and Israeli support for Kurdish nationalism. That support has not as yet helped the Kurds fulfill their aspirations, and there is no guarantee that a repeat performance would fare any better. The Kurds defended last month’s referendum with the argument that there is no good time for them to stake their claim given deep-seated Turkish, Iranian, and Iraqi rejection of their aspirations for independence. That makes their current attempt, and potential participation in covert operations against Iran, no less risky.




  Ariel Natan Pasko

Arutz Sheva, Oct. 30, 2017


It’s very ironic that all the noise about the Kurdish independence referendum; the battles between Kurdish and Iraqi forces; Turkish, Syrian, and Iranian opposition to Kurdish independence; discussion in Israel whether the State of Israel should recognize Kurdish independence; is taking place within a few weeks before and just after the 16th Yahrtzeit – anniversary of the murder – of former Israeli Tourism Minister and Moledet Party founder Rechavam Ze’evi by PFLP terrorists in 2001.


It's no secret that close relations existed between Israel and the Kurds throughout most of the sixties and into the seventies, until the collapse of the Kurdish revolt in Iraq, in 1975. Ze’evi – as a young military officer – had been to Kurdistan in the 1960s and Iraqi Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani had been to Israel. Reflective of this, the 1996 Moledet Party Platform, Chapter 9: Foreign Policy, paragraph 17, stated “Israel will act against the oppression of peoples like the Kurds…”


Ba’athist “forced Arabization” of minorities – Kurds, Yezidis, Assyrian Christians, Armenians, and others, in Kurdistan – northern Iraq – began in the 1960s, and lasted until the early 2000s. The Kurds, were brutally suppressed by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, starting in the late 1970s. During the 1987-88 Al-Anfal Campaign, an estimated 180,000 Kurds were killed, hundreds of thousands more, were expelled from their traditional homeland in northern Iraq. During the campaign, over 3,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed and replaced with Arab settlers, and chemical weapons were used against them, as in the infamous 1988 Halabja Massacre, that killed as many as 5,000 and injured up to 10,000 people.


In fact, the town of Kirkuk, in the news a lot recently, was originally a Kurdish majority, multi-ethnic city. The Ba’athist Arabization program concentrated on moving Arabs to the vicinity of oil fields in Kurdistan, particularly the ones around Kirkuk. According to Human Rights Watch, from 1991 – after the Gulf War – until 2003, the Ba’athist Iraqi government, systematically expelled over 500,000 Kurds from the Kirkuk region.


The Kurdish people are the largest, stateless, ethnicity in the world, estimated between 30-45 million worldwide, with the majority residing in historic Kurdistan. The area the Kurds consider Kurdistan includes, parts of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Syria (Western Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), and northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan). The Turks, Syrians, and Iranians, have all oppressed their Kurdish populations also. The Kurds have always looked toward Israel as a role model. The Jews are the only minority in the middle east – actually the remnant of the indigenous population of the land of Israel as the Kurds are in Kurdistan – that has liberated itself politically from the 7th century Arab imperialist invasion, occupation and oppression of the region.


With this in mind, Israel should actively and openly revive the former policy of support for the Kurdish people and work in international forums and agencies to support their independence. In a recent article, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, raises an important point. Kedar referring to, “Israeli pundits, army officers and politicians…view the current regional situation as a golden opportunity that Israel must take advantage of by accepting the Arab peace proposals, establishing a Palestinian state and embarking on a new era of cooperation with the ‘moderate Sunni axis’ in order to bring peace and security to Israel and the entire area.” He then asks, “Why? Because all these countries fear Iran as much as, and possibly more, than Israel does.”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    






Ben Cohen

Algemeiner, Nov. 6, 2017


For the last forty-seven years, Jamil “Jimmy” Ezra has marked a special, deeply private anniversary on September 1 with a ray of hope in his heart. For it was on that day in 1970 that Ezra – accompanied by his brother and sister – drove in a jeep to the Iraqi border with Iran with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and his assistant at the wheel.


Ezra and his siblings were among more than 2,000 Iraqi Jews who were helped by Kurdish Peshmerga to escape from the Ba’athist regime during the 1970s. These were dark days in Iraq, where the remnant of a Jewish community that had only recently numbered 150,000 was convulsed with fear following the public hanging in Baghdad in 1969 of 14 people, nine of them Jews, on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel. Ezra remembers the time with the same deep emotion that grounds his present fears about what the future now holds for his Kurdish rescuers. “My heart breaks for the 30 million Kurds, divided between Iraq and Turkey, Syria and Iran, and abused and suffering,” Ezra told The Algemeiner on Monday.


Ezra will be speaking about his experiences with Masoud Barzani – son of the legendary Mullah Mustafa Barzani and, until last week, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – at downtown Manhattan’s prestigious Center for Jewish History on Tuesday night, during a special two-part series on the Kurds sponsored by the American Sephardi Federation. It is a story that began when Ezra was a boy of 17 in Baghdad, living with his aunt and uncle, and still grieving from the sudden death of his father from a heart attack on the very same day in July 1968 that Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist comrades seized power.


“One day in 1970, my brother Farid was walking in the street when he was stopped for an ID check,” Ezra recalled. “He had a permit exempting him from serving in the army, and on every page it was written in red, yahudi, yahudi, yahudi (Jew).” Farid was arrested and imprisoned on a spying charge. His voice breaking, Ezra recalled how his brother was beaten and tortured by his jailers until he suffered a nervous breakdown. Farid was then transferred to a prison for the criminally insane. “In the hot summer, the prisoners would all run outside to drink the unfiltered river water that was brought in by a truck in the morning — they would fight over the dirty water,” Ezra said. “My aunt would send me with food and clean water for my brother, and he would beg me to take him away.”


At this point, Ezra said, he and his sister Gilda decided that it was time to leave Iraq. He ventured north to Iraqi Kurdistan, then enjoying a measure of autonomy under an agreement with Baghdad that was soon reneged upon by Saddam Hussein. Arriving in the Kurdish town of Haj Omran on the Iranian border, he came across an Iraqi Jewish family he knew who were taken across the border into Iran that same night. Ezra, meanwhile, was given a mattress in a room where he bedded down with ten Kurds. “I told them about how the Jews were suffering,” he said.  “They promised to take me to Mustafa Barzani the following day.”


The next morning, Barzani’s aides hatched a plan that involved Ezra and another Jewish family returning to Baghdad to collect their relatives, after which they would travel to a meeting point back in northern Iraq. “That was on Monday; on the Thursday, back in Baghdad, I woke up my brother Farid, who was suffering badly from his trauma in prison, and I told him, ‘Come on, you and me and Gilda are going on a short vacation,'” he said. Had they been stopped and discovered at one of the many security checkpoints along the way, certain imprisonment in a Ba’athist jail would have awaited — and, indeed, the family was pulled over by a soldier. “Luckily, the guy was an idiot,” Ezra remembered. “He couldn’t understand why my brother had an exemption permit from the army, so our driver kept explaining, ‘He’s not well, he’s not well.’ Eventually, the soldier said, ‘Ok, ok, you can go.'”


Arriving at the meeting point agreed with Barzani’s advisers, Ezra remembered that a high-level Kurdish intelligence official “came out and started briefing us.” To maintain secrecy around Kurdish assistance to escaping Iraqi Jews, the official instructed Ezra and those with him to personally approach Masoud Barzani, who would be sitting in a cafe at an agreed time, and pretend they had a brother imprisoned by Kurdish forces. “We had to act,” Ezra said. “We had to beg and plead in front of Masoud.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    




On Topic Links


Why Kurdistan Matters (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Nov. 1, 2017—In the latter part of October 2017, the Iraqi army, allied with Shia militias under Iranian direction, assaulted and captured large amounts of Kurdish territory in Iraq. This represented a stunning defeat for the Kurdish military which, up until now, had been perceived as one of the strongest forces on the ground in the Middle East.

How the Kurdish Quest for Independence in Iraq Backfired: Sergio Peçanha, New York Times, Nov. 5, 2017—Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in late September, but in the month since that referendum, Iraqi government forces have seized one-fifth of Kurdish-controlled territory.

'No Easy Path Out of This Mess:' Canada's Military Confirms it is Reviewing Plan to Arm Kurds: David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 26, 2017—Canada’s military has confirmed it is reviewing its plan to provide the Kurds with weapons as fighting grows between Kurdish and Iraqi forces.

Kurdistan on the Road to Desolation: LTC Sargis Sangari and Steven Weingartner, Western Free Press, Nov. 1, 2017—On 22 NOV 16 NEC-SE posted the article: ”President of KRG, Masoud Barzani, May Be Stepping Down Soon.”

In the article we stated that NEC-SE could confirm that Barzani is seriously considering stepping down from his position, and that KRG leadership meetings in Turkey could finalize the decision.



Saving NATO from Turkey: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Oct. 16, 2017— The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, faces an existential problem.

Turkey Is Behaving like an Enemy Now: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, Oct. 12, 2017— Turkey, along with the American-Turkish relationship, is going so far off the rails so quickly right now that there's no chance you're aware of everything that's going on unless you track it professionally or get Google Alerts in your inbox.

The Turkish Love-Hate Relationship with America: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Oct. 10, 2017— Turks often expose degrees of confusion when asked about their foreign policy preferences.

This is Kurdistan’s Last Chance: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Globe & Mail, Oct. 18, 2017 — On Monday, what had been feared transpired: Paramilitary units supported by elements of the Iraqi army attacked in the vicinity of Kirkuk.


On Topic Links


The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth  : Steven A. Cook, Foreign Policy, Oct. 12, 2017

Bernard-Henri Lévy Slams Turkish President Erdogan for Pushing ‘Crudest, Worst’ Antisemitic Campaign in Wake of Kurdish Independence Vote: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Oct. 9, 2017

‘We Don’t Trust Americans Any More’: Roadblock on Kurdish Quest for Independence in Iraq: John Beck & Loveday Morris, Telegraph, Oct. 22, 2017

The Kurds: Neither the Twin of Palestine Nor the Clone of Israel: Jose V. Ciprut, BESA, October 23, 2017



Daniel Pipes

Washington Times, Oct. 16, 2017


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, faces an existential problem. No, it’s not about getting member states to fulfill agreed-upon spending levels on defense. Or finding a role after the Soviet collapse. Or standing up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Rather, it’s about Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist, dictatorial ruler of Turkey whose policies threaten to undermine this unique alliance of 29 states that has lasted nearly 70 years.


Created in 1949, NATO’s founding principles ambitiously set out the alliance goal “to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of [member states’] peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” In other words, the alliance exists to defend Western civilization. For its first 42 years, until the USSR collapsed in 1991, this meant containing and defeating the Warsaw Pact. Today, it means containing and defeating Russia and Islamism. Of these latter two, Islamism is the deeper and longer-lasting threat, being based not on a single leader’s personality but on a highly potent ideology, one that effectively succeeded fascism and communism as the great radical utopian challenge to the West.


Some major figures in NATO appreciated this shift soon after the Soviet collapse. Already in 1995, Secretary-General Willy Claes noted with prescience that “Fundamentalism is at least as dangerous as communism was.” With the Cold War over, he said, “Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the NATO alliance and to Western security.” In 2004, Jose Maria Aznar, Spain’s former prime minister, warned that “Islamist terrorism is a new shared threat of a global nature that places the very existence of NATO’s members at risk.” He advocated that NATO focus on combating “Islamic jihadism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” and called for “placing the war against Islamic jihadism at the center of the allied strategy.”


But, instead of a robust NATO on the Claes-Aznar model leading the battle against Islamism, it was internally hobbled by Mr. Erdogan’s opposition. Rather than assert the fight against Islamism, the other 28 members dismayingly deferred to the Islamist within their ranks. The 28 stay mum about the near-civil war the Turkish regime wages in southeastern Anatolia against its own Kurdish citizens. The emergence of a private army (called SADAT) under Mr. Erdogan’s exclusive control seems not to bother them. Likewise, they appear oblivious to Ankara’s unpredictably limiting access to the NATO base at Incirlik, the obstructed relations with friendly states such as Austria, Cyprus and Israel, and the vicious anti-Americanism symbolized by the mayor of Ankara hoping for more storm damage to be inflicted on the United States.


Maltreatment of NATO-member state nationals hardly bothers the NATO worthies: Not the arrest of 12 Germans (such as Deniz Yucel and Peter Steudtner) nor the attempted assassination of Turks in Germany (such as Yuksel Koc), not the seizure of Americans in Turkey as hostages (such as Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge), nor repeated physical violence against Americans in the United States (such as at the Brookings Institute and at Sheridan Circle). NATO seems unfazed that Ankara helps Iran’s nuclear program, develops an Iranian oil field, and transfers Iranian arms to Hezbollah. Mr. Erdogan’s talk of joining the Moscow-Beijing dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization ruffles few feathers, as do joint exercises with the Russian and Chinese militaries. A Turkish purchase of a Russian missile defense system, the S-400, appears to be more an irritant than a deal-breaker. A mutual U.S.-Turkish ban on visas fazed no one.


NATO faces a choice. It can, hoping that Mr. Erdogan is no more than a colicky episode and Turkey will return to the West, continue with the present policy. Or it can deem NATO’s utility too important to sacrifice to this speculative possibility, and take assertive steps to freeze the Republic of Turkey out of NATO activities until it again behaves like an ally. Those steps might include:


Removing nuclear weapons from Incirlik; Closing NATO’s operations at Incirlik; Canceling arms sales, such as the F-35 aircraft; Exclude Turkish participation from weapons development; Refuse to share intelligence; Refuse to train Turkish soldiers or sailors; Reject Turkish personnel for NATO positions.


A unified stance against Mr. Erdogan’s hostile dictatorship permits the grand NATO alliance to rediscover its noble purpose “to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization” of its peoples. By confronting Islamism, NATO will again take up the mantle it has of late let down, nothing less than defending Western civilization.                                                     




                                                  Michael J. Totten

World Affairs Journal, Oct. 12, 2017


Turkey, along with the American-Turkish relationship, is going so far off the rails so quickly right now that there's no chance you're aware of everything that's going on unless you track it professionally or get Google Alerts in your inbox. Where to even begin? We could start, I suppose, with the fact that a Turkish court sentenced a Wall Street Journal reporter to two years in prison in absentia for "promoting a terrorist organization." Her real crime? Interviewing and quoting members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). In other words, doing her job.


The reporter, Ayla Albayrak, is in the United States now, so President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can't get his grubby mitts on her, but let this be a lesson to all journalists who write about Turkey. You can and will be sentenced to prison. Whether or not you're a journalist, Americans can be sentenced to prison just for existing in Turkey. Conspiracy theorists who manage to bend a state to their will are capable of extraordinary destruction.


Last year, the government arrested and imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has lived there for decades, on bogus terrorism charges. He is being warehoused along with thousands of other innocent people for allegedly associating themselves with Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish cleric and former Erdoğan ally who is currently living in exile in rural Pennsylvania and blamed for the botched military coup last summer.


Lest you believe these people might actually be guilty of something, consider this: A NASA scientist is also currently jailed there. The authorities arrested him while he was visiting on vacation. The evidence against him? Having an account at a bank supposedly "linked" to Gülen, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean, and for having a one-dollar bill in his pocket, which is supposedly how Gülenists identify themselves to each other.


These are just three of the individuals gratuitously punished by the regime. There are tens of thousands more who have been purged from their jobs, imprisoned or both. If you've ever seriously wondered if political leaders who wallow in conspiracy theories are dangerous or simply exasperating, look no farther than Erdoğan. Conspiracy theorists who manage to bend a state to their will are capable of inflicting extraordinary amounts of destruction on a virtually limitless number of people.


I have reported from police states in the past. I risked deportation for doing so, not imprisonment, even in communist countries. When it comes to the treatment of journalists, the Turkish government is more oppressive even than China's or Cuba's. Turkey has in fact jailed more journalists than any other country in the entire world. Erdoğan says they're all terrorists. Probably none of them are. Being branded a terrorist in Turkey is only faintly more plausible than being fingered a witch in Salem, Massachusetts, 300 years ago.


On the off chance that you aren't quite convinced, the director of Amnesty International in Turkey is also facing 15 years in prison on terrorism charges. Meanwhile, an employee at the US Consulate in Istanbul was arrested for "facilitating the escape" of some "Gülenists." The United States government responded by refusing to issue non-immigrant visas to anybody from Turkey, and the Turkish government responded in kind. So if you're an American planning on visiting Turkey any time soon on business or as a tourist, sorry. You can't.


Under current conditions, you probably shouldn't go anyway. Turkey is holding a number of Americans hostage and isn't shy about admitting that they are hostages. "Give us the pastor back," Erdoğan himself said last month. "You have one pastor as well. Give him (Gülen) to us. Then we will try him (Brunson) and give him to you…The (pastor) we have is on trial. Yours is not – he is living in Pennsylvania. You can give him easily. You can give him right away." Taking hostages is an act of war. It's what Iran, North Korea, and Hezbollah do. Needless to say, this is not how a NATO ally is supposed to behave. Taking hostages is an act of war. It's what Iran does. It's what North Korea does. It's what Hezbollah does. It is not what genuine allies like the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Germany do.


Erdoğan is not going to settle down if the United States doesn't deport Gülen, which Washington refuses to do as there is scant evidence that the exile had anything to do with last year's coup attempt and reams of evidence that the old man couldn't possibly get a fair trial if he were shipped back to Ankara even with the best lawyers on earth. Erdoğan probably won't settle down even if he does manage to throw Gülen into a dungeon or onto the executioner's chopping block. Stalin didn't settle down after one of his goons dispatched his rival Leon Trotsky with an ice axe in Mexico City, nor did the Ayatollah Khomeini settle down after the Shah Reza Pahlavi died from cancer in the United States in 1980. Authoritarian conspiracy theorists are never sated. They can only be resisted until they are overthrown or in the ground. Turkey is still in NATO. We'll see if that lasts much longer.            



THE TURKISH LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH AMERICA                                                  

Burak Bekdil

BESA, Oct. 10, 2017


Turks often expose degrees of confusion when asked about their foreign policy preferences. A public opinion poll in the mid-2000s found that most Turks viewed the US as a threat to world security – but the same poll found that Turks expected the US, before every other ally, to come to Turkey’s help if needed.


Conspiracy theories have always been abundant in the Turkish psyche. Schoolchildren grow up hearing maxims like “A Turk’s only friend is another Turk” and “Our Ottoman ancestors had to fight seven worlds (the big powers).” According to this worldview, the world’s major powers construct intricate conspiracies as they tirelessly plot to stop Turkey’s rise. In an age of rising populism, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has systematically fueled the common thinking that “the entire world is conspiring against us.” His Islamist, anti-western, isolationist narrative is creating a vicious circle that threatens to take Turkey’s foreign policy calculus hostage – not only today, but well into the future.


Until Erdoğan came to power in November 2002, most Turks would not have known or even been interested in the names of their foreign ministers. In the 1990s, I saw a group of party supporters clamor to kick the then foreign minister out of a party meeting, mistaking him for a journalist. Erdoğan’s ambitious neo-Ottoman ideology introduced foreign policy into Turks’ daily lives. Coffeehouse talk changed from standard ruminations on inflation, joblessness, economic hardships, and football to pontifications about the Arab-Israeli dispute, the Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war, America, the EU, and Russia.


Two different surveys in 2011, conducted just after Erdoğan’s party had won 49.5% of the national vote in a general election, found the following: 75% of Turks thought problematic relations between Islamic countries and the West were the West’s fault; 53% blamed poverty in Muslim countries on the West and America; 82% had a negative opinion about Christians;  only 9% believed Arab groups had carried out the 9/11 attacks; 41% thought the most violent religion in the world is Judaism; 65% said they approved of Erdoğan’s foreign policy


In August, the Washington-based Pew Research Center’s global survey found that 72% of Turks saw America as a threat to their country’s security. In Turkey, a NATO member state, the US is perceived as a greater threat than Russia or China. “America’s influence is a top concern in Turkey,” the survey read. “This figure [72%] is up 28 percentage points since 2013, when just 44% named US power and influence as a major threat.”


Bizarrely, similar numbers of Turks view the US and ISIS as a threat to their country. Pew did not ask Turks about their perceptions of ISIS this year, but its 2015 research found that 73% of Turks had a negative opinion of ISIS and 72% had a negative opinion of America. (In that poll, 8% of Turks had a favorable opinion of ISIS while 19% had no opinion.)


The explanations for anti-Americanism vary in different countries. For instance, in Greece, the sentiment is a largely historical phenomenon, as many blame the violent Greek civil war on the US. In Turkey, it has a different nature. As Turkish society becomes more and more ethnically and religiously conservative and xenophobic, anti-American thinking gains ground and spreads to more segments of the society. Erdoğan’s populist rhetoric only makes things worse.


“It [the presumed American hostility toward Turkey] is because we are Muslim,” a schoolteacher explained to me when I asked her why she thought America was conspiring against Turkey. Her husband, a government banker, broadened the issue: “Also because we [Turkey] stand against the Jewish oppression of the Palestinians … America doesn’t like this.” Such theories, pumped up by Erdoğan and his powerful media machinery, are quite palatable to the conservative masses, making this kind of manipulation a winning game for Erdoğan. The more Turks feel “imperial” again – the more they believe they have a strong leader and government at long last – the more votes Erdoğan can garner.


In this game, Erdoğan has to show that he really cares about “my nation’s foreign policy preferences” – a concern he does in fact share. The deal he offers is to make voters feel proud again in exchange for their support. All Erdoğan has to do is give the impression that he is fighting the world powers, America included. He then tells the world powers in private that they should ignore his rhetoric, which is only for domestic consumption. “Still, since taking power in Ankara in 2002, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has mainstreamed anti-Americanism,” wrote Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute.


Erdoğan’s generation of Islamists was anti-American largely because of the Arab-Israeli dispute, although they feared Soviet communism more than American imperialism. Future generations of Turkish Islamists will hate America even more because they will have gone through long years of indoctrination by a beloved leader and his powerful propaganda machine. One of the schoolboys who today admires the “great leader” and his brave fight against “the Satan” will one day become his country’s foreign minister, prime minister, or president.





Bernard-Henri Lévy

Globe & Mail, Oct. 18, 2017


On (Oct. 16), what had been feared transpired: Paramilitary units supported by elements of the Iraqi army attacked in the vicinity of Kirkuk. Baghdad's putatively federal army put into action the threats of the country's leaders and, at the risk of ruining any chance of future co-existence with the Kurds, responded to the peaceful referendum of Sept. 25 with a dumbfounding and vengeful act of force.

Not long ago, it was Saddam Hussein operating with gas and deportations. Then, on Monday, Saddam's Shi'ite successors, answering to Tehran, sent tanks, artillery and Katyusha rockets into the oil fields that are the life blood of Kurdistan. They are doing the same in the Sinjar Mountains, in the southern city of Jalawla, and in the Bashiqa area on the Plain of Nineveh, which the Kurds only just reclaimed from Islamic State.


And now, scandal mounts around the fact that Kurdistan's so-called friends, the countries that for two years running relied on it to keep the Islamic State at bay and then to defeat it, the people who swore by the Peshmerga, by its heroes and by its dead, have, as I write these lines, responded with nothing more than deafening silence, appearing willing to abandon to their fate the men and women who fought so valiantly for them.


Whether one agreed or disagreed with the referendum that President Masoud Barzani consistently described as a democratic prelude to negotiation with Baghdad, it is completely unacceptable that the response to that referendum should be an act of force piled onto the blockade of Irbil's skies and borders, the relentless economic and political pressure, and the transformation of Kurdish territory into an open-air prison over the past three weeks. In the face of this unprecedented act of punishment, the international community should have immediately sounded a solemn warning to Iraq (and to its Iranian masters and their ally of convenience, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan): Cease the aggression. Pull back the militias and the regular forces supporting them to the lines that existed on Oct. 15.


In response to an advance aimed at choking Kurdistan's second-largest city and at breaking through the Peshmerga's lines with support from Iraq's 9th Armoured Division, the federal police and counterterrorism units, the West – notably the United States and France – should have called immediately for a ceasefire and denounced this replay of Danzig in the Middle East. And, seeing that the Iraqi forces and the militants of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq did not stand down, the international forces that were deployed in the area as part of the battle against the Islamic State should have been positioned to help our oldest and bravest ally in the region. For two years now, the Kurds have stood against the Islamic State almost alone along a 1,000-kilometre front line, serving as the West's rampart against barbarism.


When the Iraqi army fled before the caliphate's troops in the summer of 2014, it was the Kurds who held on and retook the territory. And if they were in Kirkuk on Monday it is, first of all, because they had been a majority there until the Arabization imposed by Saddam Hussein, but also because it is thanks to the Kurds – and the Kurds alone – that the city did not become a fiefdom of the Islamists like Mosul and Raqqa. In other words, coming to their rescue was a matter of honour and justice.


On one side we had the sinister new Gang of Four (Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq), who are bound together by their hatred of democracy and human rights; on the other we have a small but great people who aspire only to liberty, ours as well as their own, and who harbour no aim to divide neighbouring empires. What form of blindness – or what base calculations – could have caused us to hesitate for a second between the two?


I repeat: on one side, a clutch of dictatorships with which the United States and Europe are engaged in a delicate balance of power that permits no lowering of our guard and no concession on matters of principle; on the other, a proud people who for a century have resisted successive attempts at subjugation and whose crime today is to have voiced a desire to live in a society guided by the very same principles that we in the West embrace. Who in Washington, Paris or London could have had any doubt? Who would have dared oppose calling the UN Security Council into emergency session for a resolution to halt a war launched by Baghdad while the corpse of the Islamic State was still twitching? We should not have abandoned Kurdistan – the only real pole of stability in the region…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


The American Alliance With Turkey Was Built On a Myth  : Steven A. Cook, Foreign Policy, Oct. 12, 2017—This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed the U.S.-Turkey relationship from bad to worse. On Tuesday, he claimed that “spies” had infiltrated U.S. missions in Turkey and said that Turkey didn’t consider the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, John Bass, to be a legitimate representative of the United States.

Bernard-Henri Lévy Slams Turkish President Erdogan for Pushing ‘Crudest, Worst’ Antisemitic Campaign in Wake of Kurdish Independence Vote: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Oct. 9, 2017—Leading French-Jewish intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy on Monday slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for orchestrating “the crudest, the worst” antisemitic campaign against him over his support for the September 25 independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan — in which 93 percent of voters declared their backing for the creation of a sovereign Kurdish state.

‘We Don’t Trust Americans Any More’: Roadblock on Kurdish Quest for Independence in Iraq: John Beck & Loveday Morris, Telegraph, Oct. 22, 2017—Solemn protesters holding aloft Kurdish flags surrounded the U.S. embassy and UN consulate here over the weekend, while a man scaled the walls of the Iranian embassy to tear down its flag. United in their anger, they chanted “Yes, yes, Kurdistan” and carried signs saying: “We want our country.”

The Kurds: Neither the Twin of Palestine Nor the Clone of Israel: Jose V. Ciprut, BESA, October 23, 2017—Not all Kurds seek sovereignty. Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria differ from one another and from the Kurds of the Diaspora (western Europe and the Americas). It is not inconceivable that Turkish, Iranian, and Syrian Kurds would be content with autonomy alone, provided it were real. Nor is it unthinkable that they might be citizens of a single Kurdish state but permanent residents elsewhere, or might benefit from dual nationality.







Tension over Kurdistan: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 1, 2017 — This past Monday close to 7 million Kurdish citizens of Iraq, cast their votes in a referendum consisting of one question only: Do you support a declaration of independence on the part of the Kurds in Iraq? 

The Case for Kurdish Independence: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Oct. 2, 2017 — Over 90% of Iraq’s Kurdish population have now voted for independence from Iraq.

Iran and the Kurdish Challenge: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Sept. 30, 2017— The Kurdish referendum on independence poses multiple dilemmas for the Iranian regime’s domestic and foreign policy.

Canada Quietly Opposes Kurd Independence, Notwithstanding History of Oppression: Terry Glavin, National Post, Sept. 27, 2017 — Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often.


On Topic Links


Interview of LTC Sargis Sangari on Bill Martinez Live: Near East Center, Sept. 22, 2017

The U.S. Must Tell Its Allies to Back Off the Kurds: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Sept. 29, 2017

Post-Referendum: Kurds in Iran Demand Rights as Regime Cracks Down: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 30, 2017

Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown?: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 1, 2017




Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Arutz Sheva, Oct. 1, 2017


This past Monday close to 7 million Kurdish citizens of Iraq, cast their votes in a referendum consisting of one question only: Do you support a declaration of independence on the part of the Kurds in Iraq?  The voting was widespread, with 80% of eligible voters going to the polls. It is clear that the question is seen as vital to a large majority of Kurds, leading them to go out to vote.


From a practical point of view, the Kurds have been trying to advance their independence for 25 years, ever since the world forbade Saddam Hussein's air force from flying over their territory. They have developed a legitimate, democratic, organized and fair government over the past two and a half decades, as well as a disciplined top level army that proved its mettle against ISIS in Mosul. They have responsible media which portray both sides of the controversy and in general are a tranquil society with  no internal violence, a  successful economy based on oil and related products.


The referendum is highly important for both sides, those for and those against.  Supporters want to live in a Kurdish national home with all their hearts, like the French, Dutch, Egyptians, Israelis and the rest of the nations of the world do. They intend to create independence de jure from de facto independence, including international recognition. Their main motivation is national pride and pride in their achievements during these last 25 years, but the memory of the wars waged against them by Iraq in the 20th century plays a part. Lurking in the background is the historic hostility between Kurds and Arabs.


Those opposed to a declaration of independence worry mainly about the price Iraqi Kurdistan may be forced to pay for doing so, because its neighbors – Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and Iraq to the south – have declared their total opposition to the holding of a referendum, let alone a declaration of independence.  Turkey threatens war and has concentrated forces on its border with Kurdish territory, despite years of economic cooperation with the Kurds. The Kurds export their oil by way of Turkey, paying enormous sums for that service. Declaring war against the Kurds may well end that cooperation, affecting the "wayward" Kurds' economy for the worse.


Another painful price that might have to be paid is an air and sea blockade. Iraqi Kurdistan has no access to the sea, and all its relations with the outside world – people and goods – must take place by way of the air and sea space of Iran, Turkey or Syria. If those countries decide on a blockade and continue to stand by that decision for any length of time, it is hard to see how the Kurds could run a proper national life, certainly not economically. The reason these countries oppose Kurdish independence is the fact that each one of them, especially Iran, harbors a Kurdish minority as well as other ethnic groups.  If the Iraqi Kurds succeed in creating a viable state, other minorities will demand independence and the Kurds among them might even try to form a large Kurdish federation or a state that unites with the Iraqi Kurdistan.


The Turks see this demand as a strategic danger to their existence, as there are Kurds in every city in Turkey, living mostly in their own neighborhoods, in addition to the Kurdish region of southwestern Turkey. An internal war between the Turkish majority and the Kurdish minority has been going on for a century. It is sometimes extremely violent, with terror attacks in urban areas, and sometimes simmers on a low burner.  Erdogan tried to put an end to the warring several years ago, but his efforts only angered the nationalist Turks who endanger his throne, so he went back to limiting himself to negative rhetoric aimed at the Turkish Kurds


Erdogan fears that a declaration of war on his part against the Iraqi Kurds will lead to an outbreak of Turkish terror against his regime, while a non-declaration will lead the Turkish Kurds to demand independence. If he does – or doesn't – give in to their demands they may start a new wave of terror against the Turkish regime.  Erdogan feels he is trapped and this drives him crazy, so that he keeps coming out with pronouncements, some of them over the top, against the referendum.


The Kurds in Iran demand their country recognize a Kurdish state in Iraq after the referendum. They certainly know that Iran will never do that, because recognizing a Kurdish state will awaken, in addition to the Kurds in Iran, all the other minorities to the possibility. This includes the Balouchi, Azari, Arabs, and many more and might bring the artificial Iranian state to an end because only half the people in Iran are Persian. Unsurprisingly, this week Iran declared that its airspace is closed to (plains) to and from the Kurdish area of Iraq. It may be followed by others.


Syria, embroiled for a long while in unending struggles and  war to keep its country unified under Assad's illegitimate regime, is also opposed to a Kurdish state, viewing it as a negative move for Syria. Arab Iraq is opposed to independence for the Kurds in the country because most of the rich oil deposits are in that region.


The regional opposition and threats to wage war against Kurdish Iraq have led European nations, the USA and Russia to be concerned that an needless war may break out, while the entire world is trying to put an end to what is left of ISIS's state and everyone wants the benefit of Pesh Merga's military prowess and the experience it gained during the battle for Mosul.


Israel, in contrast to all the nations in the world, seems to be the only country which supports a Kurdish state in Iraq and on the ruins of Iran. Israel will assuredly not be against adding the Kurds in Syria and possibly those in Turkey to a new Kurdish state. The establishment of a Kurdish state is an act of historic justice to a  people divided into three by the European powers in order to serve their interests and not for the benefit of the indigenous people in each region where those powers established a state to run the affairs of its citizens…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




THE CASE FOR KURDISH INDEPENDENCE                                             

Alan Dershowitz

Algemeiner, Oct. 2, 2017


Over 90% of Iraq’s Kurdish population have now voted for independence from Iraq. While the referendum is not binding, it reflects the will of a minority group that has a long history of persecution and statelessness. The independence referendum is an important step toward remedying a historic injustice inflicted on the Kurdish population in the aftermath of World War I. Yet while millions took to the streets to celebrate, it is clear that the challenges of moving forward towards establishing an independent Kurdistan are only just beginning. Already, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has said: “We will impose the rule of Iraq in all of the areas of the KRG, with the strength of the constitution.” Meanwhile, other Iraqi lawmakers have called for the prosecution of Kurdish representatives who organized the referendum — singling out Kurdish Regional Government President (KRG), Masoud Barzani, specifically. 


While Israel immediately supported the Kurdish bid for independence, Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tried to extort Israel to withdraw its support, threatening to end the process of normalization unless it does so. It is worth noting that Turkey strongly supports statehood for the Palestinians but not for their own Kurdish population. The Palestinian leadership, which is seeking statehood for its people, also opposes statehood for the Kurds. Hypocrisy abounds in the international community, but that should surprise no one.


The case for Palestinian statehood is at least as compelling as the case for Kurdish statehood, but you wouldn’t know that by the way so many countries support the former but not the latter. The reason for this disparity has little to do with the merits of their respective cases and much to do with the countries from which they seek independence. The reason then for this double standard is that few countries want to oppose Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria; many of these same countries are perfectly willing to demonize the nation-state of the Jewish people. Here is the comparative case for the Kurds and the Palestinians.


First, some historical context. In the aftermath of WWI, the allied forces signed a treaty to reshape the Middle East from the remnants of the fallen Ottoman Empire. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres set out parameters for a unified Kurdish state, albeit under British control. However, the Kurdish state was never implemented owing to Turkish opposition and its victory in the Turkish War of Independence, whereby swaths of land intended for the Kurds became part of the modern Turkish state. As a result, the Kurdish region was split between Turkey, Syria and Iran and the Kurds became dispersed around northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and parts of Iran and Syria. Though today no one knows its exact population size, it is estimated that there are around 30 million Kurds living in these areas.


In contrast to the Palestinian people who adhere to the same traditions and practices as their Arab neighbours, and speak the same language, Kurds have their own language (although different groups speak different dialects) and subscribe to their own culture, dress code and holidays. While the history and genealogy of Palestinians is intertwined with that of their Arab neighbours (Jordan’s population is approximately 50% Palestinian), the Kurds have largely kept separate from their host-states, constantly aspiring for political and national autonomy.


Over the years there have been countless protests and uprisings by Kurdish populations against their host states. Some Arab rulers have used brutal force to crackdown on dissent. Consider Turkey, for example, where the “Kurdish issue” influences domestic and foreign policy more than any other matter. Suffering from what some historians refer to as “the Sevres Syndrome” — paranoia stemming from the allies’ attempt to carve up parts of the former Ottoman Empire for a Kurdish state — President Erdogan has subjected the country’s Kurdish population to terror and tyranny, and arrested Kurds who are caught speaking their native language.


But perhaps no group has had it worse than the Kurds of Iraq, who now total 5 million — approximately 10-15% of Iraq’s total population. Under the Baathist regime in the 1970s, the Kurds were subject to “ethnic cleansing.” Under the rule of Saddam Hussein they were sent to concentration camps, exposed to chemical weapons and many were summarily executed. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Kurds were killed at the hands of the Baath regime. So “restitution” is an entirely appropriate factor to consider — though certainly not the only one –in supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. In contrast, the Palestinians have suffered far fewer deaths at the hands of Israel (and Jordan) yet many within the international community cite Palestinian deaths as a justification for Palestinian statehood. Why the double standard?


There are many other compelling reasons for why the Kurds should have their own state. Firstly, the Iraqi Kurds have their own identity, practices, language and culture. They are a coherent nation with profound historical ties to their territory. They have their own national institutions that separate them from their neighbors, their own army (the Peshmerga) and their own oil and energy strategy. Moreover, international law stipulated in Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, lays the foundation for the recognition of state sovereignty. The edict states: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” The KRG meets these criteria, as least as well as do the Palestinians.


Moreover, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq — the closest it has come to having its own state — has thrived and maintained relative peace and order against the backdrop of a weak, ineffectual Iraqi government and a brutal civil war. As such, it represents a semblance of stability in a region comprised of bloody violence, destruction and failed states. Why then did the United States — along with Russia, the EU, China and the UN — come out against independence for one of the largest ethnic groups without a state, when they push so hard for Palestinian statehood? The US State Department said it was “deeply disappointed” with the action taken, while the White House issued a statement calling it “provocative and destabilizing.” Essentially, the international community cites the following two factors for its broad rejectionism: 1. That it will cause a destabilizing effect in an already fragile Iraq that may reverberate in neighbouring states with Kurdish populations; 2. That the bid for independence will distract from the broader effort to defeat ISIS — which is being fought largely by Kurdish Peshmerga forces…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    



IRAN AND THE KURDISH CHALLENGE                                                       

Dr. Doron Itzchakov

BESA, Sept. 30, 2017


The Kurdish referendum on independence poses multiple dilemmas for the Iranian regime’s domestic and foreign policy. The most obvious issue is that the success of the Iraqi Kurds in realizing their national identity could catalyze separatist trends among their Iranian counterparts. Although this concern has a degree of validity, Iranian Kurds have their own unique characteristics – one of which is a set of far less pronounced national aspirations than those of their counterparts elsewhere. That point raises the question whether Tehran’s opposition does in fact stem from fear of separatism among the Iranian Kurds. The regime’s considerations may well include other aspects that have largely been pushed to the margins.


The relationship between the Kurdish minority in Iran and the central government had ups and downs throughout the monarchic and post-revolutionary periods. The uprising of the Kurdish minority led by Qazi Muhammad, which brought about the establishment of the “Republic of Mahabad” (January 1946) under Soviet patronage, is still engraved on the historical consciousness of the Islamic Republic. The Kurdish uprising was a chain reaction following the uprising of the national movement of Azerbaijan led by Jaffar Pishevari, which had begun two months earlier. Clashes continued into the 1960s, undermining Iranian national identity and morale.


The Iranian Kurdish minority’s aspiration for autonomy did not end with the establishment of the Islamic Republic in February 1979. Hope soon receded, however, because of internal rifts and the regime’s uncompromising policy. From 1989 to 1996, a string of assassinations of leaders of the Iranian Kurdish movement left a leadership vacuum that remains to this day.


Moreover, the Iranian Kurdish minority – estimated, without official data, at about 7.5 million people – is marked by a lack of structural unity stemming from religious factors. There are also party, ideological, and tribal differences. Unlike in other countries where the Kurdish minority is mostly Sunni, in Iran, a considerable proportion of Kurds – particularly those who live in the Kermanshah province – are Shiite and receive preferential treatment from government institutions. This population voted against holding the referendum, unlike the Kurds belonging to the Sunni branch, who voted in favor. Furthermore, the policy of “divide and conquer,” in combination with the Iranian regime’s tight control and harsh repression of the Kurdish population, has affected this minority’s cohesion.


Tehran’s opposition to the nationalist tendencies of the Iraqi Kurds stems from other motives as well, both geopolitical and geostrategic. Iran fears that Kurdish autonomy in northeastern Iraq will weaken its influence in that divided country. That Iran has penetrated Iraq’s political, diplomatic, and security spheres and influences its decision-makers is well known. Tehran uses powerful levers of influence in Iraq, such as the Shiite militias active in the framework of the al-Hashd al-Shabi (the Popular Mobilization Forces). Though these militias operate according to a November 2014 resolution of the Iraqi parliament that subordinated them to the country’s security-political establishment, the first loyalty of some of them is to the Revolutionary Guard and the policymakers of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


These militias are subject to Iranian guidance, funding, training, and sometimes even command, and are meant to promote Tehran’s interests. The ongoing fighting in Iraq and Syria and the collapse of governmental rule there has given Iran a window of opportunity to achieve its regional aspirations, which include promoting the “resistance axis” – a tactical and ideological basis for expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Terry Glavin

National Post, Sept. 27, 2017


Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often. On one of the deepest tectonic stresses underlying the blood-soaked ground of the Greater Middle East, an orderly referendum carried out this week in the most exemplary democratic fashion in Northern Iraq has pitted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, European radical leftists and one of the most persecuted minorities on the face of the Earth against U.S. President Donald Trump, Syrian mass murderer Bashar Assad, Turkish strongman Recep Erdogan and the Khomeinist regime in Iran. And Canada.


After several postponements and fits and starts going back several years, and against an array of sternly-worded warnings and outright threats of violence, the already semi-sovereign Kurdish Regional Government of Masoud Barzani went ahead with the contentious referendum on Monday. What Barzani sought was a modest non-binding mandate to spend the next two years sitting down with Baghdad to peacefully negotiate a transition out of more than a quarter-century of de facto Kurdish autonomy in Iraq to full de jure autonomy. That’s it.


Kurdish election officials report a massive turnout of 78 per cent among more than five million eligible voters and a “yes” vote in the vicinity of 93 per cent. The result was greeted with jubilation among the stateless Kurds, wherever they live. There are at least 30 million Kurds in their mountainous homelands, divided a century ago between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. In the Middle East’s various presidential compounds and emirs’ palaces, however, you’d think Barzani had issued a unilateral declaration of independence, proclaimed an outright republic and declared war on his neighbours.


In Ankara, Erdogan threatened to cut off landlocked Iraqi Kurdistan from food shipments through Turkey, warning the Iraqi Kurds to “give up or go hungry.” Erdogan also threatened to close the spigots on a pipeline carrying Kurdish oil through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. “We have the tap,” he said. “The moment we close the tap, then it’s done.” Two years ago, Erdogan resumed a brutal war in Turkey’s Kurdish regions following the collapse of peace talks with the leadership of Turkey’s 14 million Kurds…


Netanyahu’s backing of the Kurdish referendum — and Kurdish independence — should come as no surprise. The Israelis and the Kurds have forged strong bonds of affection going back decades — it is not uncommon to see Israeli flags being waved at pro-independence rallies in Iraqi Kurdistan — and Israelis count the Kurds foremost among their few friends in the Middle East. Canada’s opposition to Barzani’s referendum is just as unsurprising. For all Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “world stage” declarations of solidarity with the marginalized, the voiceless and the dispossessed, the Trudeau government has declared its interest in going along with the Iraqi status quo.


The presence of Canadian Special Forces working alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Operation Impact is irrelevant to the matter of the aging Barazani’s legacy referendum project. Trudeau has made much of not taking sides in the Kurdish referendum controversy, on the grounds that he’s “very sensitive” to matters related to separatism. Staying out of the arguments about Kurdish independence in Iraq sensibly follows from Canada’s experience with two referendum campaigns in Quebec, Trudeau says, when there was a danger of “foreign interlocutors” weighing in…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


Interview of LTC Sargis Sangari on Bill Martinez Live: Near East Center, Sept. 22, 2017—On 19 SEP 17, LTC Sargis Sangari was Interviewed on Bill Martinez Live in reference to the 25 SEP 17 KRG referendum, the three state “solution” for Iraq, and the security situation of the Assyria Nineveh Plain and Kirkuk under the current and future conflicts between the Sunni Muslim Kurds and the Iraqi Arabs.

The U.S. Must Tell Its Allies to Back Off the Kurds: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Sept. 29, 2017— No one expected the neighbors to be happy when Iraq's Kurds voted for independence this week. After all, even though the Kurds say the Iraqi constitution does not forbid a referendum on statehood, there is still a regional war going on against the Islamic State. It's a chaotic moment to be talking about redrawing national borders.

Post-Referendum: Kurds in Iran Demand Rights as Regime Cracks Down: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 30, 2017— Last Sunday, on the eve of the independence referendum by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Iranian Kurds began celebrating. The next day, as people went to the polls across the border in Sulaimaniya, Erbil and other cities, Kurds in Iran celebrated en masse. In Baneh, Mahabad and Sanandaj, Iran, videos showed thousands in the streets, many of them with Kurdish flags.

Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown?: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 1, 2017— Despite many efforts to stop or postpone it, the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum has become a fait accompli and must be taken into account in shaping future developments, and Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani (also known as "Kak Masoud" — "Brother Masoud" in Kurdish), the man who orchestrated the exercise, must be as pleased as Punch.






A Lesson in Democracy for Turkey’s Islamist President: Steven Emerson, Algemeiner, Sept. 6, 2017 — When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington, DC this past May…

Victims of Turkey's Islamization: Women: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 31, 2017— On Feb. 6, 1935, Turkish women were allowed to vote in national elections for the first time, and eighteen female candidates were elected to parliament…

The US Standoff with Turkey: Robert Ellis, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 2, 2017— When it comes to Turkey, the US is faced with a dilemma.

Erdogan’s Turkey: Reliable Partner or Western Foe?: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Aug. 22, 2017— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan forcefully inserted himself into Germany’s upcoming elections by urging Turkish foreign-nationals to boycott major parties, including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.


On Topic Links


How Turkey Went From Being a Strategic Asset to a Liability: Simon A. Waldman, World Politics Review, June 14, 2017

Get NATO’s Nukes Out of Turkey: Jonathan Marshall, Huffington Post, Sept. 5, 2017

Pro-Erdogan Media in Turkey Inciting Antisemitism Over Kurdish Independence Referendum: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Sept. 17, 2017

New Mideast Realities Require Support for Kurds: Trudy Rubin, The Inquirer, Sept. 15, 2017





Steven Emerson

Algemeiner, Sept. 6, 2017


When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington, DC this past May, he was greeted outside the home of the Turkish ambassador by a small group of protesters concerned about his crackdowns on civil rights, and his antagonism towards Turkey’s Kurdish population. Within minutes, Erdogan’s bodyguards sprang into action, accompanied by others in the Turkish posse, beating and kicking the protesters — who included women and senior citizens. A 61-year-old woman later told the Guardian that she had feared for her life after guards punched her in the face. When 60-year-old Turkish-American Reza Dersimi tried to assist the elderly woman, he, too, was assaulted.


Local police quickly intervened, arresting several of the attackers, including Erdogan’s guards. Some of those who ran off were apprehended in the days that followed — but many remain at large. The arrests infuriated Turkey’s president. “They have incarcerated our citizens!” cried Erdogan, who has regularly thrown foreign journalists and human rights leaders into Turkish prisons for absolutely no crime whatsoever.


Now the US government has indicted 19 of the attackers for their violent abuse of the protesters, whom Turkish leaders accuse of having been members of the Kurdish terrorist group PKK. (There is no evidence, however, to suggest that any protester had terror ties.) Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has described the indictments as “unjust and biased,” and claims that the indictments include the “names of people that have never been to the US.” The indictment — against 15 Turkish security guards, two Turkish-Canadians, and two Turkish-Americans — contains 21 counts of assault and hate crimes, and describes the incident as a “conspiracy to assault protesters and law enforcement officials.”…


Yet rather than apologize for the violence, Erdogan has declared the indictments “scandalous,” praised the attackers for their actions, and decried America’s failure to protect him from the protesters. True, some protesters did shout “Long Live the YPG,” referring to a Syrian-Kurdish militant group that the United States has engaged with in its fight against the Islamic State (Turkey considers this group to be a terrorist organization). But such cries, in a democratic state, hardly call for a violent response.


Moreover, Erdogan’s objections reek of hypocrisy. In the past two years, his government has detained numerous foreign nationals on trumped-up charges of “terrorism,” a word that Erdogan bandies about to describe critics of his ideology or his regime, including human rights workers and journalists. He has called on foreign governments to arrest their own citizens for statements critical of him, such as his April 2016 demand in April that Germany charge comedian Jan Böhmermann for his profanity-laced poem criticizing the Turkish president.


And only days later, Dutch-Turkish columnist Ebru Umar, vacationing in the Aegean coastal town of Kusadasi, was pulled from her bed in the middle of the night by police and arrested for cursing Erdogan on Twitter. She was released from custody the following day, but was not permitted to leave the country for several weeks. Other dual-citizens have suffered similar fates or worse, such as German-Turkish Die Welt reporter Deniz Yucel, who was arrested in February on charges of “terror propaganda and inciting hatred,” according to CNN. Yucel had “interviewed PKK leader Cemil Bayik ‘under the guise of being a journalist’ and reported on security forces’ operations in Turkey’s southeast against Kurdish militants by ‘undertaking propaganda by expressing the discourses of the armed terror organization,'” the prosecutor’s office told CNN.


And it’s not just dual nationals. Turkey’s July arrest of German activist Peter Steudtner and several others attending a workshop on digital security — again on terrorism charges — led German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to issue a warning to Germans about visiting Turkey. French freelance reporter Loup Bureau was also taken into custody last month in Turkey, again on charges of assisting terrorists. The charges were based not on anything he was doing at the time, but on a 2013 story that he had produced about members of the YPG for France’s TV5 Monde.


And in one particularly notorious case, Turkish police arrested British VICE reporters and their Iraqi fixer in 2015 in Diyarbakir, a city with a large Kurdish population. The charge: “knowingly and willfully helping the armed terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure,” according to Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency. Although court papers did not include the name of the terrorist group, the journalists’ lawyer, Tahir Elci, told Reuters that, “They were accused of meeting and siding with both the Islamic State and the PKK-affiliated group [YDG].”


Erdogan’s message here is clear: his critics and dissenters and their associates are “terrorists” who must be subdued through violence, imprisonment or both — and those who oppress them, preferably through violence and imprisonment, are the righteous ones, the heroes. This ideology, unsurprisingly, links Erdogan far more closely to Islamist, authoritarian governments than to the democracies of the West. Indeed, as Scott Peterson observed in the Christian Science Monitor:


Fifteen years into his rule, Erdogan has gradually turned his country away from the secular tradition of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who founded the modern state from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. And there is little room for any competing views as the once ardently secular eastern anchor of NATO, which has aspired to membership in the European Union, weakens once-promising linkages with the West, promotes the role of religion in public life, clamps down on opponents and the media, and moves ever more firmly away from democratic norms.


By contrast, in America and other Western nations, reporters are free to follow their investigations; peaceful protesters are free to voice their views; and government agents may not use violence against innocent civilians. What type of law is this? It’s called democracy, Mr. Erdogan. And this is what it looks like.





Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Aug. 31, 2017


On Feb. 6, 1935, Turkish women were allowed to vote in national elections for the first time, and eighteen female candidates were elected to parliament – a decade or more before women even in Western countries such as France, Italy and Belgium. Eight decades later, Turkish women look like unwilling passengers on H.G. Wells' Time Machine traveling back to their great-grandmothers' Ottoman lives.


Turkey's strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once proudly said that "Women should know their place," and that "Gender equality is against human nature". His deputy prime minister said that women not to laugh in public. It was not shocking to anyone when Turkey's Ministry of Family and Social Policies found in 2016 that no fewer than 86% of Turkish women have suffered physical or psychological violence at the hands of their partners or family. According to the ministry's findings, physical violence is the most common form of abuse: 70% of women reported they have been physically assaulted.


More recently, Kadin Cinayetlerini Durduracagiz Platformu, a women's rights organization, reported that 28 women were murdered by men in July 2017 alone. The same month, eight other — luckier — women were physically assaulted for "wearing shorts or 'indecent' outfits or smoking in public." The report concluded by saying, "The state remains silent."


Turkey increasingly features all possible social and political reflections of Islamism: authoritarianism, majoritarianism and officially-tolerated intolerance to everything Islamists may deem "un-Islamic." Women are often the target group, and might not avoid intimidation even if they dress in line with the Islamic code. Hayrettin Karaman, an Islamic scholar and the darling of Turkey's pro-Erdogan Islamists, recently argued that smoking cigarettes sends signals about women's morals. He wrote in his Aug. 3 column: "When I see a woman who wears a headscarf but also smokes in public, I get the impression that she's saying: 'Don't mind the fact that I am covering my head. Don't give up on me, I have a lot more to share with you.'"


Naturally, many Turkish men took the cleric's words as a message of sexual availability. This kind of thinking is common in conservative Muslim societies. It did not used to be that way in secular Turkey. It is simply an outcome of Turkey's top-down government-induced social Islamization. That has two disturbing aspects: willing social participation of people who comply, and inequality before law.


In 2014, 17-year-old K.C. was raped and beaten by two men. She filed a complaint with the police, and the two suspects were detained. All normal, up to this point. One of the suspects made a deal with K.C.'s family: he paid a sum of about $5,700 to the family and agreed to marry K.C. The family arranged a bogus wedding ceremony, took pictures and presented them to the court to save the man. Under pressure from her family, K.C. changed her testimony and said she was not raped. The rapist had suddenly become her fiancé. Both suspects were released, an Islamic religious ceremony was arranged and the rapists were acquitted. Not really a happy ending. K.C.'s "husband" started to beat her regularly and the girl once again went to the police and told her real story. Her husband was her rapist and she had been forced to marry him…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




THE US STANDOFF WITH TURKEY                                                   

Robert Ellis

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 2, 2017


When it comes to Turkey, the US is faced with a dilemma. Initial enthusiasm for regime change in Syria gradually waned when it was realized that one of the actors in the proxy war, Turkey, was furthering its own agenda with US support. The spectacular failure of the half-a-billion-dollar program to train Syrian rebels was one marker to signal the end of this policy and make way for another objective: the defeat of Islamic State.


This in turn has led to the realization that the only effective boots on the ground are the predominantly Kurdish SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), which with US advisers and materiel is leading the assault on the ISIS stronghold, Raqqa. The bone of contention is that the YPG (People’s Protection Units), which makes up the backbone of the SDF, is considered by Turkey to be the Syrian counterpart of Turkey’s PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which both the US and Turkey have designated as a terrorist organization.


President Barack Obama gave Turkey carte blanche to reignite its war with the PKK in July 2015 in return for access to Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey. The same day vice president Joe Biden landed in Ankara last August to make nice with Turkey after the attempted coup, Turkey launched a cross-border operation into Syria to block an attempt to create a contiguous Kurdish zone along Turkey’s southern border. Now Turkish forces are stuck west of the Euphrates, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatens with a new cross-border operation against the Kurdish canton of Afrin in Syria’s northwest corner.


President Obama’s decision in October 2014 to airdrop supplies to Kurdish forces besieged by ISIS in Kobane was a thorn in Turkey’s eye, whereas Erdogan’s meeting with his successor in May was a bitter disappointment. Instead of entering into an alliance with Turkey to defeat ISIS, President Donald Trump approved the Pentagon’s plan to supply arms to the Syrian Kurds. The only concrete outcome of the visit was the passing of an unanimous resolution by the House of Representatives condemning the attack by President Erdogan’s security detail on demonstrators outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence. The security officials have also been indicted by a grand jury for violence.


A further aggravation was remarked late July by US special envoy Brett McGurk at the Middle East Institute in Washington, where he blamed the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Syria for the creation of an al-Qaida safe haven at Idlib “right on the border of Turkey.” Turkey considered McGurk’s statements provocative, as the US itself supported a terrorist organization (YPG). At his meeting with US Defense Secretary James Mattis in Ankara last week President Erdogan expressed Turkey’s unease at continued US support for the YPG, although Mattis assured his host the alliance was temporary and “not a choice but a necessity.” If this is the case, the US will once again leave the Kurds in the lurch.


On the other hand, in a telephone conversation in May between President Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin both expressed a commitment to furthering their strategic partnership, including trade and joint energy projects. Furthermore, they confirmed their cooperation in the Astana process and the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria. The crunch will come when it comes to determining the future of Syria’s Kurds and their demand for regional autonomy. President Erdogan has warned Turkey will not permit “a terror corridor” in northern Syria and will intervene “whatever the cost.”


When in Ankara, Secretary Mattis also met with Turkey’s defense minister, Nurettin Canikli, where they discussed the importance of Syria and Iraq’s territorial integrity and concern over “Iran’s malign influence in the region.” A week earlier when Iran’s chief of staff General Bagheri visited Turkey, President Erdogan declared that a joint operation with Iran against the PKK in Iraq was on the government’s agenda. The situation has been further complicated by the Kurdish Regional Government’s president Masoud Barzani’s intention to hold a referendum on independence on September 25.


Relations between Europe and Turkey are already strained, as an overwhelming majority of the European Parliament in July called for a suspension of accession talks. The EU’s enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn has declared it is time for member states to discuss the strategic implications of Turkey’s behavior, as “shrugging alone is not a political strategy.” Similarly, in view of the turn events are taking, a review of US policy would be timely. If the deal is finalized, Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system will make nonsense of its NATO membership. The director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), Dmitry Shugaev, has also said that all decisions regarding delivery of the S-400 missile system to Turkey correspond with Russia’s geopolitical and strategic interests.


In addition, the charge by a Turkish court that American pastor Andrew Brunson attempted to destroy constitutional order and overthrow the Turkish parliament is a blatant attempt to pressure the US into handing over the Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of masterminding the attempted coup, and dropping charges against Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish businessman, who is indicted for conspiring to evade sanctions against Iran.





Charles Bybelezer                                             

The Media Line, Aug. 22, 2017


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan forcefully inserted himself into Germany’s upcoming elections by urging Turkish foreign-nationals to boycott major parties, including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. “I am calling on all my countrymen in Germany,” he affirmed, “the Christian Democrats, SDP [Social Democrats], the Green Party are all enemies of Turkey, [therefore] support [other] political parties.” Germany has a large Turkish diaspora estimated at some three million people, many of whom will vote on September 24 when Merkel bids for a fourth term.


Erdogan’s comments are the latest in an escalating war-of-words between Ankara and Berlin, whose ties deteriorated sharply in the wake of last year’s failed coup in Turkey, to which authorities responded with a major crackdown on civil society. Some 150,000 public workers, journalists and activists have been dismissed, suspended or imprisoned—many over dubious charges—by their government, which blames the unrest on a clandestine network led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally-turned-foe.


Earlier this month, the Turkish leader accused Germany of “abetting terrorists” for failing to extradite so-called “Gulenists” and claimed the country’s Nazi past was not behind it; this, after he asserted that Berlin was “committing suicide” by not allowing him to speak to Turks at a July rally on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg (it was deemed a security threat by German authorities due to potential counter-protests by Kurdish nationals). In April, Erdogan slammed Germany as “fascist and cruel” after demonstrations by his supporters were banned ahead of a referendum that gave him sweeping new powers.


For her part, Merkel has questioned Turkey’s commitment to democracy and suggested there would be no further progress towards its ascension to the European Union.  Over the weekend, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel censured Erdogan’s “unprecedented act of interference in the sovereignty of our country…[which shows] that he wants to incite people in Germany against each other.”


According to Dr. Deniz Cifci, a political advisor at the Center for Turkey Studies in London, Erdogan’s attacks on Germany are largely precipitated by internal politics. “The president is trying to strengthen his position,” he asserted to The Media Line, “by lashing out he is sending a message to the public that Erdogan is the only power in Turkey, and that this power can take on Europe.” Moreover, Cifci reinforced the notion that Erdogan remains furious at Germany for providing asylum to members of the Turkish army following the 2016 coup attempt—and by accusing Berlin of complicity in the affair he is trying to pressure Merkel to take a hard line against Gulen’s German-based network. “But Germany has refused to bend,” he stressed.


As regards Erdogan’s intrusion into the German political arena, Cifci believes that it will have little tangible effect, as “most ethnic Turks there support either Kurdish-associated or left-oriented parties, those defined by Erdogan as enemies. They do not share the same views as the Turkish president and even if they did they will vote rationally and not for racist or nationalist parties because it is not in their interest.” Erdogan’s actions may also be motivated, Cifci elaborated, by a desire to confront the “one million Turks in Germany of Kurdish origin, most of whom left Turkey for political reasons. The majority of these Kurds oppose Erdogan and have some form of ties with the PKK.”


The rift between Turkey and its largest trading partner, the most influential country in Europe, has deepened a growing chasm with the west, in general, a dispute complicated by the fact that Ankara is a member of NATO. Nevertheless, according to Prof. Dror Zeevi, an expert on Turkey at Israel’s Ben Gurion University and a Fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, no formal decision has yet been made by either side to abandon the prospect of Ankara joining the EU. “While relations have soured considerably,” he expressed to The Media Line, “the Europeans have not closed the door to the bloc. They have made clear that should Turkey make changes this could lead to renewed talks. [For its part], Erdogan has been considering ditching the process for several years, but there are advantages to [maintaining good ties] with Europe—for example, the customs union—so he will tread very carefully.”


Zeevi highlighted that the “Turkish government, while showing little enthusiasm for Europe, is in a bind because of its role in NATO. Whereas Ankara would like to be closer to Russia and Iran, it is limited because [the western military alliance] is still important in terms of training and equipment as NATO has long been a part of Turkey’s geo-strategy.” Despite this, he concluded, under Erdogan’s leadership “there has been a slow shift towards the far east.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


Get NATO’s Nukes Out of Turkey: Jonathan Marshall, Huffington Post, Sept. 5, 2017—Even in this contentious era, one proposition still enjoys near-universal support: the United States should make it the highest priority to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of hostile states.

Pro-Erdogan Media in Turkey Inciting Antisemitism Over Kurdish Independence Referendum: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Sept. 17, 2017 —As the impending referendum on independence for the Kurdish region of Iraq draws closer, pro-government media outlets in Turkey – which remains bitterly opposed to Kurdish self-determination – are energetically promoting conspiracy theories centered on the alleged relations between Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and the Israeli authorities.

New Mideast Realities Require Support for Kurds: Trudy Rubin, The Inquirer, Sept. 15, 2017—In 2016, Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani told me that Mideast chaos had already destroyed the region’s old borders.

How Turkey Went From Being a Strategic Asset to a Liability: Simon A. Waldman, World Politics Review, June 14, 2017—As the dust settles from President Donald Trump’s first visit to the Middle East, his policy in the region, such as it exists, is harkening back to the years before his predecessor, Barack Obama










The Kurds Are About to Blow up Iraq: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs Journal, Aug. 17, 2017— …On September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil will hold a binding referendum on whether or not to secede from Iraq.

The Strategic Case for Kurdistan: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 31, 2017—…Whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his support for Kurdish independence earlier this month in a meeting with a delegation of visiting Republican congressmen

Sunni Muslim Kurds, Christian Assyrians, and Yazidis at odds in Quest to Create Sovereign Homelands: Sargis Sangari, Western Free Press, June 30, 2017— The current Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leadership has decided to hold a referendum on 25 SEP 17 to separate from Iraq in order to create a Sunni Muslim Kurdish state.

The Kurds Are Not Children: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Foreign Policy, Sept. 6, 2017— The timidity of the international community in the face of the Sept. 25 referendum on an independent Kurdistan is a trifecta of shame, absurdity, and historic miscalculation.


On Topic Links


Iraqi Parliament Rejects Iraqi Kurdish Referendum: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2017

For Iraq’s Long-Suffering Kurds, Independence Beckons: Tim Arango, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2017

Iraqi Kurds’ Referendum Fever Spills Over to Turkish Cousins: Mahmut Bozarslan, Al-Monitor, Sept., 2017

Is Barzani the Savior of the Kurdish “Nation,” or is He in Fact its Enemy?: Sargis Sangari, Western Free Press, Aug. 7, 2017


Michael J. Totten

World Affairs Journal, Aug. 17, 2017


…On September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil will hold a binding referendum on whether or not to secede from Iraq. It will almost certainly pass. More than a decade ago, the Kurds held a non-binding referendum that passed with 99.8 percent of the vote. No one knows what's going to happen. Iraq is the kind of place where just about anything can happen and eventually does.


Kurdish secession could go as smoothly as a Scottish secession from the United Kingdom (were that to actually happen) or a Quebecois secession from Canada, were that to actually happen. It could unfold like Kosovo's secession from Serbia, where some countries recognize it and others don't while the Serbs are left to stew in their own juices more or less peaceably. This is a serious business, though, because Iraq is not Britain, and it is not Canada. And there's a potential flashpoint that travelers to the region would be well advised to stay away from for a while.


Shortly after ISIS invaded Iraq from Syria in 2014, the Kurdistan Regional Government effectively annexed the oil-rich governorate of Kirkuk. Ethnic Kurds made up a plurality of the population, with sizeable Arab and Turkmen minorities, before Saddam Hussein's Arabization program in the 1990s temporarily created an artificial Arab majority.


Since then, Kurds have been returning to the city en masse while many Arabs, most of whom had no history in the region before Saddam put them there, have left. No one really knows what the demographics look like now. It's a tinderbox regardless of the actual headcount. Some of the Arabs who still live there could mount a rebellion at some point, either immediately or down the road. If they do, they might engage in the regional sport of finagling financial and even military backing from neighboring countries. Then again, Arabs have been trickling north into the Kurdistan region for years because it's peaceful and quiet and civilized. It's the one part of Iraq that, despite the local government's corruption and inability to live up to the democratic norms it claims to espouse, works remarkably well. I've been to Iraqi Kurdistan a number of times. It's safer than Kansas. My only real complaint is that it gets a bit boring after a while. If you're coming from Baghdad or Mosul, it's practically Switzerland.


Kirkuk Governorate, though, is—or at least recently was—another story. The three "core" Kurdish governorates—Dohuk, Erbil, and Suleimaniyah—have been free of armed conflict since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, but Kirkuk was down in the war zone. I went there ten years ago from Suleimaniyah and was only willing to do so under the armed protection of Kurdish police officers. Had I wandered around solo as I did farther north, I would have risked being shot, kidnapped or car-bombed. I still could have been shot or car-bombed alongside the police, but at least kidnapping was (mostly) off the table. The very fact that Kirkuk was a war zone at a time when the Kurdish governorates to the north were not suggests that the Kurds may be swallowing more than they can digest.


Kirkuk has oil, though, while the governorates to the north mostly don't, so of course the Kurds want it. Baghdad, of course, wants to keep it for the same reason. Will Iraq's central government go to war over it? Probably not. Saddam Hussein lost his own war against the Kurds in the north, and he had far more formidable forces at his disposal than Baghdad does now. Still, it's more likely than a war between London and Edinburgh, or between Ottawa and Montreal.


The biggest threat to an independent Iraqi Kurdistan comes not from Baghdad but from Turkey. The Turks have been fighting a low-grade counter-insurgency against the armed Kurdish separatists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since the 1970s that has killed tens of thousands of people, and they're deathly afraid that a free and independent Kurdish state anywhere in the world will both embolden and assist their internal enemies.


While Turkey is no longer likely to invade Iraqi Kurdistan on general principle if it declares independence—a going concern shortly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein—the Turkish government is making it clear that it is supremely unhappy with the KRG including Kirkuk in its referendum. "What really concerned us," a spokesperson for Turkey's president said in June of this year, "was that Kurdish leaders want to include Kirkuk in this process while according to the Iraqi constitution Kirkuk is an Iraqi city and is not within Kurdish boundaries … If any attempts will be made to forcefully include Kirkuk in the referendum question, problems will be made for Kirkuk and its surrounding areas."…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                





Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 31, 2017


…Whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his support for Kurdish independence earlier this month in a meeting with a delegation of visiting Republican congressmen, the Trump administration has urged Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and his colleagues to postpone the referendum indefinitely. US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who visited with Barzani in the Kurdish capital of Erbil two weeks ago, said that the referendum would harm the campaign against Islamic State. In his words, “Our point right now is to stay focused like a laser beam on the defeat of ISIS and to let nothing distract us.”


Another line of argument against the Kurdish referendum was advanced several weeks ago by The New York Times editorial board. The Times argued the Kurds aren’t ready for independence. Their government suffers from corruption, their economy is weak, their democratic institutions are weak and their human rights record is far from perfect. While the Times’ claims have truth to them, the relevant question is compared to what? Compared to their neighbors, not to mention to the Times’ favored group the Palestinians, the Kurds, who have been self-governing since 1991, are paragons of good governance. Not only have they given refuge to tens of thousands of Iraqis fleeing ISIS. Iraqi Kurdistan has been an island of relative peace in a war-torn country since the US-led invasion in 2003. Its Peshmerga forces have not only secured Kurdistan. They have been the most competent force fighting ISIS since its territorial conquests in 2014. The same is the case of the Kurdish YPG militia in Syrian Kurdistan.


As for Mattis’s argument that the referendum, and any subsequent moves to secede from Iraq, would harm the campaign against ISIS, the first question is whether he is right. If Mattis is concerned that the referendum will diminish Iranian and Turkish support for the campaign, then his concern is difficult to defend. Turkey has never been a significant player in the anti-ISIS campaign. Indeed, until recently, Turkey served as ISIS’s logistical base.


As for Iran, this week Iranian-controlled Hezbollah and Lebanese military forces struck a deal to permit ISIS fighters they defeated along the Lebanese-Syrian border to safely transit Syria to ISIS-held areas along the Syrian border with Iraq. In other words, far from cooperating with the US and its allies against ISIS, Iran and its underlings are fighting a separate war to take ISIS out of their areas of influence while enabling ISIS to fight the US and its allies in other areas.


This then brings us to the real question that the US should be asking itself in relation to the Kurdish referendum. That question is whether an independent Kurdistan would advance or harm US strategic interests in the region. Since the US and Russia concluded their cease-fire deal for Syria on July 7, Netanyahu has used every opportunity to warn that the cease-fire is a disaster. In the interest of keeping Mattis’s “laser focus” on fighting ISIS, the US surrendered its far greater strategic interest of preventing Iran and its proxies from taking over the areas that ISIS controlled – such as the Syrian-Lebanese border and the tri-border area between Iraq, Syria and Jordan. As Netanyahu warns at every opportunity, Iran and its proxies are moving into all the areas being liberated from ISIS.


And Iran isn’t the only concern from either an Israeli or an American perspective. Turkey is also a looming threat, which will only grow if it isn’t contained. Turkey’s rapidly accelerating anti-American trajectory is now unmistakable. Last week during Mattis’s visit to Ankara, Turkish- supported militias in northern Syria opened fire on US forces. Not only did Turkey fail to apologize, Turkey condemned the US for retaliating against the attackers. Moreover, last week, Turkish authorities announced they are charging US pastor Andrew Brunson with espionage, membership in a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy Turkey’s constitutional order and overthrow its parliament. Brunson was arrested last October.


Whereas until last year’s failed military coup against the regime of President Recep Erdogan, Turkey demonstrated a firm interest in remaining a member of NATO and a strategic ally of the US, since the failed coup, Turkey has signaled that at best, it is considering its options. US generals say that since the failed coup, they have almost no one to talk to in the Turkish military. Their interlocutors are either under arrest or too afraid to speak to them. The regime and its supporters express both neo-Ottoman and neo-colonial aspirations, both of which place Turkey on a collision course with the US. For instance, Melih Ecertas, the head of Erdogan AKP Party’s youth wing proclaimed that Erdogan is not merely the president of Turkey. He is “President of all the world’s Muslims.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





AND YAZIDIS AT ODDS IN QUEST TO CREATE SOVEREIGN HOMELANDS                                                                     Sargis Sangari    

Western Free Press, June 30, 2017


The current Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leadership has decided to hold a referendum…to separate from Iraq in order to create a Sunni Muslim Kurdish state. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the referendum will pass, with the majority of the KRG’s Sunni Muslim Kurdish population expected to vote overwhelmingly in its favor. Masoud Barzani (President of Iraqi Kurdistan), has left nothing to chance in this regard, providing “his” Kurds and allies with financial support and direct monetary payouts on the understanding that they will vote for statehood. In August 2015, Iraqi Kurdistan’s Shura Council (or upper house of parliament) voted to extend President Barzani’s term as KRG president by two years. But that’s not enough for Barzani. He wants to stay in power indefinitely. To that end, he has pushed for secession of the KRG from Iraq and the creation of a Kurdish state — which he will head, as it’s de facto leader-for-life.


Even though it stands on the brink of statehood, the KRG has not yet proposed or even written a constitution for their new country. But Barzani and his underlings have left no doubt as to who will control it. On 29 JUN 17 at a conference in Brussels, Belgium, KRG leaders articulated measures for the soon-to-created Kurdistan that would establish the Sunni Muslim Kurds as the new state’s dominant political group. All non-Kurds — including, notably, the region’s Assyrian Christians – would be effectively (and deliberately) marginalized by this arrangement.


Thus the KRG leadership sought to compel Christian Assyrian support for absorbing the Assyria Nineveh Plain (ANP) into Kurdistan. Amazingly, they tried to cast this move in a favorable light, and thereby win world opinion to their side, by portraying Sunni Muslim Kurds as saviors and protectors of the Assyrian Christians. But Assyrian political groups and Assyrian church representatives were not fooled, and promptly withdrew from the European Union Conference.


As they demonstrated at the conference, the Sunni Muslim Kurds want the ANP and Sinjar for Kurdistan. They covet the region’s vast untapped oil reserves, and will do everything in their power to take them for their own. If they get their way, the consequences will be dire. For starters, the Government of Iraq (GOI) will no longer recognize the legitimacy of Kurdish political parties, Assyrian political parties, and the Yazidi alliance in the Iraqi north. As a result, the Assyrians and Yazidis will no longer receive financial support and security protections from the GOI, which is currently provided to them under current constitutional mandates. Also, Article 125 of the Iraqi constitution will no longer apply in support of the Assyrians as an indigenous people of Iraq.


Even worse, Christian Assyrians who live in the ANP and Yazidis living in Sinjar and throughout the Iraqi north all will be expected to acquiesce in the formation of the Kurdish state. They will have to renounce their aspirations for an Assyrian state, and if they refuse to do so they will be branded as rebels and foreigners by their newest Sunni Muslim masters. These Christians and Yazidis will effectively become second-class citizens in the Sunni Muslim Kurdish state, and they will be stripped of their rights as a distinct ethnicity to create a state in their own historical homeland.


Over time, the Christian Assyrians will be “encouraged” to leave the Kurdish state. Those that stay will be forced to accept Kurdish occupation of their lands along with the heavy handedness of Kurdish rule. They will be persecuted for their Christian faith, and the use of the Assyrian language will be marginalized…Here we would remind readers that first Christian genocide of the 20th century, 1915-1923, saw the massacre of tens of thousands of Anatolian Assyrians, Pontic Greeks, and Armenians. The mass murders were carried out in large measure by Kurdish tribesmen and Kurdish assassins, acting at the behest of their Ottoman Turk overlords – and Sunni co-religionists.


Kurdish maltreatment of Christian Assyrians and Yazidis continues in the present day. It has not reached the levels of violence that obtained during and after the First World War, but we fear that it could, and soon rather than later. We fear that a storm is coming: the first holocaust of the twenty-first century, with Christian Assyrians and Yazdis as its primary victims. The Assyrians of Iraq must take bold action to prevent their annihilation. They must act to save themselves, because no one else will. Certainly they cannot expect help from the global powers, which are focused on their own agendas and perceived self-interests to act meaningfully on the Assyrians’ behalf. A preemptive (albeit peaceful) “strike” by the Assyrians aimed at blocking the KRG’s agenda for the ANP is needed. On the same day as the Current KRG leaders hold a referendum for statehood the Assyrian and Yazidi political parties should declare their intent to create their own nation-state, in the hearth of their historical homeland, to encompass the Assyria Nineveh Plain, Dahok, Sinjar, and portions of Erbil (i.e., Ankawa, which has an overwhelming Assyrian Christian populace).


Further, the Assyrians are willing to announce their desires to work with the GOI to achieve the objective of an Assyrian state as part of a federalized Iraqi system. If the GOI and the international community are willing to back the creation of a state for Sunni Muslim Kurds, they should be equally willing to back the creation of an Assyrian state for the Christian and Yazidi peoples of northern Iraq in their own historical homeland. If the Assyrians and or the Yazidis follow through on their declaration, the Sunni Muslim Kurds must leave Dahok (Assyria Nuhadra) and give up their control over Ankawa, which they presently occupy. The GOI acting in collaboration should mandate their departure from Dahok/Nuhadra with the international community…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    




THE KURDS ARE NOT CHILDREN                  

Bernard-Henri Lévy

                                                 Foreign Policy, Sept. 6, 2017


The timidity of the international community in the face of the Sept. 25 referendum on an independent Kurdistan is a trifecta of shame, absurdity, and historic miscalculation. We are talking about a people who have been deported, Arabized by force, gassed, and pushed into the mountains where, for a century, they have mounted an exemplary resistance to the tyranny their Baghdad masters successively imposed on them in defiance of geography and of the Kurds’ thousand years of history.


Theirs is a region that finally gained autonomy with the fall of Saddam Hussein — a region that, when the tsunami of the Islamic State crashed over Mesopotamia in 2014 and the Iraqi Army took flight, was the first to organize a counteroffensive. Since then, over a front 600 miles long, the Iraqi Kurds held off the barbarians and thus saved Kurdistan, Iraq, and our shared civilization. And it is the Kurds again who, in the run-up to the battle of Mosul, went on the offensive on the Plains of Nineveh, opened the gates to the city, and, through their courage, enabled the coalition to strike at the heart of the Islamic State.


But now that the time has come to settle up, the United States remains stubbornly opposed to the referendum, urging the Kurds to put off their aspirations for independence to an indeterminate date in the future. Instead of thanking the Kurds, the world is telling them, with thinly veiled cynicism, “Sorry, Kurdish friends, you were so useful in confronting Islamic terror, but, uh, your timing is not so good. We don’t need you anymore, so why don’t you just go on home? Thanks, again — see you next time.”


It is said the referendum will distract attention from the common fight against the Islamic State and interfere with the Iraqi elections scheduled for next year. But everyone knows, except when they choose not to admit it, that the military part of the battle ended with the fall of Mosul, thanks largely to the Kurds themselves. Moreover, who can guarantee that the Iraqi national elections will take place as scheduled rather than being adjourned, just as we are asking the Kurds to adjourn theirs? An independent Kurdistan, the commentators continue, would imperil regional stability. As if Syria, mired in war; Iran, with its revived imperial ambitions; and decomposing Iraq, that artificial creation of the British, are not dangers far greater than little Kurdistan, a secular and democratic friend of the West with an elected parliament and free press!


Independence, the talking heads insist, would threaten the territorial integrity of the four nations — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey — across which the Kurdish nation is spread. It is as if these voices are unaware that the present referendum concerns only the Kurds of Iraq, who have no ambition to form a greater Kurdistan with their “brothers” and “sisters” in Turkey and Syria, whose crypto-Marxist leadership is ideologically incompatible with that of the Iraqi Kurds. But what about the reaction of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, one asks? What about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reported threat to cut the pipelines that connect Iraqi Kurdistan to the rest of the world? I do not believe that it is the role of the West to act as a press agent for two dictatorships that detest us, nor do I see why the blackmailing of one’s neighbors should be condemned when practiced by Pyongyang but facilitated when it comes to Tehran or Ankara.


Sadly, however, no argument is too feeble to be used to justify our request to “delay.” It feels like an Orwellian nightmare, or a festival of bad faith, in which all arguments are turned into their opposites. What of the Kurds’ organizing themselves into an autonomous island of democracy and peace, even after the Peshmerga had not been paid by Baghdad for three years? That should be enough for them, claim U.S. State Department experts who cannot seem to grasp why the Kurds should want to take the last step from autonomy to independence. What of the Kurds’ controlling oil in the Kirkuk region? Instead of seeing this as a boon, which should provide immediate assurance of their ability to finance the development of their new country, observers seem to think only of the covetousness that these riches might stimulate. And when the two major parties scramble for votes — which anywhere else would be seen as a sign of healthy republican civic culture — this is suddenly viewed as the seeds of divisions and disputes to come!…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    



On Topic Links


Iraqi Parliament Rejects Iraqi Kurdish Referendum: Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2017—Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to reject an Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum planned for Sept. 25, authorizing the prime minister to take all measures to preserve Iraq's unity, a lawmaker said.

For Iraq’s Long-Suffering Kurds, Independence Beckons: Tim Arango, New York Times, Sept. 9, 2017—A pair of rusted eyeglasses, a grimy antique watch, torn bank notes and old identification cards. These simple items on display at a museum here in northern Iraq, dug from a mass grave of Kurdish tribesmen massacred by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen, help explain why there is little doubt about how Kurds will vote in a referendum this month on independence from Iraq.

Iraqi Kurds’ Referendum Fever Spills Over to Turkish Cousins: Mahmut Bozarslan, Al-Monitor, Sept., 2017—Iraqi Kurdistan is gripped by excitement ahead of the Sept. 25 independence referendum. The sense of hopeful anticipation, however, is not limited to Iraqi Kurds. Their cousins in neighboring Turkey — reeling from Ankara’s heaviest crackdown in years — are watching the process with an equal excitement, hoping that a vote for independence will boost the standing of Kurds across the region. And some are not only watching.

Is Barzani the Savior of the Kurdish “Nation,” or is He in Fact its Enemy?: Sargis Sangari, Western Free Press, Aug. 7, 2017—How can Barzani be considered the enemy of a future Kurdish State? Concerning the SEP 25 referendum on Kurdish statehood:  do the Kurdish people generally support his bid for statehood, or are they against him? Before the referendum is voted on, can he guarantee that all the Sunni Muslim Kurdish political parties and organizations support his project?