Source: Council on Foreign Relatiaons
Washington should respond to sectarian conflict near Kirkuk by seeking to preserve a united Iraq while supporting Kurdish autonomy.
The chaos spread by the self-proclaimed Islamic State across Iraq, further fragmenting that already fragile state, inadvertently redounded to the benefit of the Kurdish population. This presents the Trump administration with a quandary: Should the United States support or oppose long-frustrated Kurdish ambitions for statehood?
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which already enjoys autonomy from Baghdad, took advantage of the initial reverses suffered by Iraqi forces since 2014 to expand its sphere of territorial control by roughly 40 percent. Most notably, the KRG asserted control over the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which has long been contested by Kurds, Turkmen, and Arabs. Then, on September 25, the KRG, under the leadership of President Masoud Barzani, staged a referendum in which 93 percent of voters opted for independence from Iraq.
It now appears, however, that the KRG’s reach has exceeded its grasp. Its independence bid has united its neighbors—Iraq, Turkey, and Iran—against it. Turkey and Iran, which have their own restive Kurdish populations, have closed their border crossings with the KRG to signal their displeasure, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, acting with Iran’s support, ordered the Iraqi military into the disputed province of Kirkuk. On October 15–16, Iraqi army units, along with the Iranian-dominated Popular Mobilization Forces, entered the city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas to reclaim them for the central government. By the end of this operation, Iraqi forces seemed to control more territory than they had prior to 2014. READ MORE…
The internet and social media were once hailed for creating new opportunities to spread democracy and freedom. But authoritarian regimes soon began cracking down on internet freedom. They feared the brave new digital world, because it was beyond the reach of their analogue security establishments. Their fears proved unfounded. In the event, most social media-enabled popular uprisings failed for want of effective leadership, and traditional political and military organizations retained the upper hand. Technology does not stand still, and nor should democracy.read more
ISIS threat ‘is going to morph’ and possibly go underground in Iraq, says Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleauread more
Government corruption provided Daesh and local militias with the umbrella they needed to seize power in Iraq, officials and lawmakers told Arab News on Thursday. They said Iraq’s security and political stability will remain threatened as long as corrupt officials continue to control the country’s assets. Iraq is high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The Iraqi Parliamentary Committee of Integrity told Arab News that the estimated value of “looted” amounts during the past 12 years has been more than $200 billion.read more
US companies are eager to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Iraq in all industrial sectors, especially in oil and gas, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil said on Thursday after US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman met with Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi. Al-Luaibi invited US companies to take part in tenders called by the Iraqi ministry and said Iraq was preparing more favorable work conditions for foreign companies investing and doing business in Iraq, Oil Price reported. The two US supermajors, ExxonMobil and Chevron, already have operations in parts of Iraq. Exxon signed an agreement in 2010 with Iraq’s South Oil Company to redevelop and rehabilitate the West Qurna I Oilfield in southern Iraq.read more
Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures to postpone the elections for at least six months but is adamant they will go ahead. Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi has assured the nation that parliamentary and provincial elections will be held in Iraq in May as scheduled. Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures from the State of Law Coalition and the Union of Sunni forces in addition to Kurdish parties to postpone the elections for at least six months, Al Hayat, the pan-Arab newspaper reported. But in his weekly press conference, the prime minister dismissed any doubts, saying, “The cabinet today reiterated that provincial and parliamentary elections will be held on 12 May 2018.,” Mr Al Abadi said. “There is no reason for delaying the elections.”read more