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Vol. 81/No. 39      October 23, 2017

(front page)

Kurds stand firm for independence against blockade by Baghdad

Since the overwhelming 93 percent vote for independence in Kurdistan Sept. 25, the capitalist regimes in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria — all with substantial Kurdish populations — have been moving to tighten a blockade against the Kurdistan Regional Government, demanding it back down.

Baghdad took advantage of formalities in international conventions covering air travel to halt all international flights to and from the Kurdistan region for at least three months Sept 29. Ankara and Tehran have both sent troops to join Baghdad in military exercises on Kurdistan’s border. The Iraqi government is demanding that all dealings on oil exports from Kurdistan be done directly with Baghdad, and claimed Oct. 10 it sent engineers to divert the flow out of the pipelines that carry the KRG’s oil to the port in Turkey. The KRG relies on these oil exports for almost 90 percent of its revenues.

Washington, which opposed the independence referendum and has made clear it’s for maintaining one Iraqi state, is urging “dialogue.” The goal of the U.S. rulers is to prevent new fighting that would disrupt its coalition efforts to advance its economic and political interests in Syria and Iraq.

With virtually all flights halted, except a few flying out of Erbil airport, officials have said they may not be able to afford to stay open. With hundreds of Kurdish tourist and travel companies affected, some 7,000 workers would lose their jobs, reported Kurdish news service Rudaw.

Several days after the flight ban was put into effect, Iraq’s central bank informed the KRG that it would stop selling dollars to four major Kurdish banks and halt all foreign currency transfers to the region.

Further tightening the squeeze, arrest warrants were issued Oct. 11 by an Iraqi court against members of the Kurdistan Region’s High Electoral and Referendum Commission. Asked whether this will include a warrant to arrest Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Rudaw, “We are awaiting legal procedures in this regard.”

The KRG has refused Baghdad’s demands to turn over control of its borders or allow Iraqi authorities into its airports. Protesting the government in Baghdad for a “tsunami” of illegal and unconstitutional measures against the people of Kurdistan, members of Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party in parliament announced they would stop attending sessions and seek to win others to join them. Barzani has called for talks with the Iraqi government, which they have refused.

The Kurdish referendum victory has inspired the 30 million Kurds throughout the region — the largest nation worldwide without its own state — and won sympathy and support from workers around the globe.

And there are some barriers to Baghdad’s moves to seize Kurdish oil from the Kirkuk area. The Russian Rosneft oil company recently signed a multibillion-dollar deal to extract Kurdish oil and gas to be exported to Europe through Turkey.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has stated his opposition to Kurdistan’s referendum. Through the course of a more than six-year civil war in Syria, Kurdish forces have made gains. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been the most effective force there in pushing back reactionary Islamic State, and in the process some 2 million Kurds have carved out an autonomous area called the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria along the border with Turkey. The Assad regime now says it’s open to discussing an autonomous Kurdish region within Syria’s borders — after the end of the civil war there.

With the agreement of Tehran and Moscow, Ankara has begun an incursion into northern Syria, supposedly to “de-escalate” abutting areas in Idlib province controlled by rebels and the Syrian army. However, several reports say Turkish military forces are instead positioning themselves to encircle the Kurdish canton of Afrin controlled by the YPG.
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