The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 81/No. 42      November 13, 2017

(front page)

Washington, Baghdad drive to prevent
independent Kurdistan

While vowing to continue the fight for Kurdish independence, backed by over 90 percent of the vote in a Sept. 25 referendum across Kurdistan, Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani announced his resignation, effective Nov. 1.

Barzani’s resignation comes amidst an ongoing drive by Washington, other imperialist powers and most capitalist regimes in the region — in particular Baghdad, Tehran, Ankara and Damascus, where millions of Kurds reside — to oppose Kurdish independence. Washington insists on the territorial integrity of Iraq.

Barzani, who had served as KRG president since 2005, made the announcement after elections for president and parliament had been postponed for at least another eight months.

The 3 million Kurds who voted for independence cannot be “erased by history,” Barzani said in a TV address three days before he stepped down. “Even if the referendum wasn’t held, there was a plan to attack Kurdistani areas and destabilize the situation in the Kurdistan region,” he said. Iraqi government troops and the Tehran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia moved against the KRG Oct. 16, seizing Kirkuk and some 30 percent of the territory previously held and protected by Kurdish peshmerga forces.

U.S. officials were pleased to see Barzani go, particularly given his sharp criticism of Washington for giving the green light to the recent attacks on the Kurds.

Immediately after the overwhelming independence vote, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the KRG to turn all border crossings, airports and oil facilities in the Kurdish region over to control by Baghdad. Two weeks later Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi troops — deploying U.S. military equipment — launched their assault against the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

They rapidly seized control of this historic Kurdish city as peshmerga commanders in Kirkuk, backing a wing of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan opposed to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s course, ordered their troops to withdraw without a fight. The PUK and Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party are both part of the KRG.

Baghdad took control over oil production and the pipeline near Kirkuk, and arranged for British Petroleum to take over operations there.

Under increased pressure, the KRG offered to suspend results of the referendum in an effort to open negotiations with the Iraqi government. Abadi rejected the offer, saying any hint of independence must be annulled. Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed militia then pushed deeper into the autonomous Kurdistan region. One focus has been for control over the border crossing in the Kurdish town of Fishkabour, located where Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces has used this crossing in its operations against Islamic State, including in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour province. And the U.S. military uses this crossing to supply its special operations forces in Syria.

The Fishkabour crossing is also the route through which aid is brought to some of the more than 270,000 refugees who fled Raqqa since fighting began there in June.

With Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi troops and artillery outside the city, after being repulsed by peshmerga forces, a cease-fire was declared Oct. 27. Meetings between Iraqi and Kurdish representatives have taken place in Mosul, with “the U.S. overseeing the talks,” reported Rudaw.

Shifts in Syria, Iraq

Tehran, with close military and political relations with the Shiite majority in the Baghdad government, is seeking to connect its forces and allies from the borders of Afghanistan through Iran and Iraq into Syria, hooking up with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Washington wants to prevent this.

A fight is shaping up against Islamic State’s final stronghold on the Syrian-Iraqi border, including the Syrian city of Abu Kamar and Al Qaim in Iraq. Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government forces — backed by Tehran-backed militias and Moscow’s air power — are advancing on the Iraqi border on the western bank of the Euphrates River. U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), are moving along the river’s eastern bank.

At stake for Assad is control over more territory previously lost as well as oil resources. For Tehran and Washington, it’s the struggle for political and military influence in the region.

And here, as in Iraq, the Kurds may face a situation where their continued autonomy no longer serves the interests of Washington.

Speaking about Raqqa, Syrian Information Minister Mohammad Ramiz Turjuman said Oct. 23, “We don’t consider any town to be liberated before the Syrian army enters it.”  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home