Friday, October 20, 2017

Russia's Roseneft To Take Majority Share in Kurdish Oil Pipeline

Keep it under your hat! 
How does this development affect the regional situation? 
If it does at all?
Might this be a factor in all the demonization of Barzani? In the push to get the Barzani clan out of power? So many questions...........

Oilprice.com:

While tensions between Iraq’s federal government and the Kurdistan region continue to escalate, Russia’s state-controlled oil giant Rosneft said on Thursday that it had agreed with the Kurdistan Regional Government to take majority control in the operation of the oil pipeline in the Kurdish region, in an apparent push by Russia and Rosneft to achieve greater political and economic influence in the Middle East.
Rosneft’s share in the project may be as high as 60 percent, while the other project participant with a 40-percent stake will be KAR Group—the current pipeline operator, the Russian company said.
“The entry into the infrastructure project will contribute to achievement of Rosneft’s strategic objectives and will enable Rosneft to enhance the efficiency of oil transportation to the end customers including supplies to the Company’s refineries in Germany,” said Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin, who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin.
According to sources familiar with the deal who spoke to Reuters, Rosneft’s investment in the project would be around US$1.8 billion.
The Rosneft deal comes just days after Iraqi government forces seized control of all oil fields that Iraqi state-held North Oil Company operates in the oil-rich Kirkuk region from Kurdish forces.
Last week, Iraq’s Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luiebi ordered state-held oil and pipeline companies to begin restoring oil flows from Kirkuk to Ceyhan via a pipeline that bypasses Kurdistan, increasing pressure on the breakaway region that voted for independence last month in a referendum strongly opposed and deemed illegal and invalid by the federal government.
On Thursday, Iraq’s Oil Ministry issued a statement saying that it “warns seriously all the countries and oil companies from contracting or dealing with any authority inside Iraq without taking the approval from the federal government and the ministry of oil.”
Oil Minister Al-Luiebi said that “the irresponsible statements from some of the officials inside & outside Iraq or the foreign companies about their intention to sign oil contracts with any authority inside the geographic borders of Iraq without telling the federal government or the ministry of oil, is considered as a Blatant interference in the internal affairs and a derogation from national sovereignty, and an outright violation of international norms.”

Although the statement doesn’t specifically name any foreign company, it came on the day after Rosneft signed another deal with Kurdistan--Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) for five production blocks, for a total investment of up to US$400 million. 
This week’s deals between Rosneft and Kurdistan are not the first agreements between the Russian oil giant and the region that overwhelmingly voted for independence from Iraq at the end of September. Even before the referendum, Rosneft had already become the biggest source of oil funds for Kurdistan.
Thoughts? 

Don't Miss:


Netanyahu Lobbies World Powers to Prevent Iraq's "Transgression" Against Kurds

  Basnews
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lobbying world powers to prevent further setbacks to Kurds by the Iraqi military forces, according to Israeli officials

Israeli officials said that Netanyahu has discussed the Iraqi Kurds’ plight in phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, Reuters reported on Friday.
The Israeli prime minister has discussed the Kurdish issue with France and the Israeli national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat. He has been discussing the matter with Trump administration officials as well, the source said.
An Israeli official, who declined to be named, told Reuters that Israel had security interests in Kurdistan.
“This (territory) is a foothold. It’s a strategic place,” the official said.
 This (territory) is a foothold. It’s a strategic place,” the  Israeli official said. 


"He said that Israel wanted the Kurds to be provided with the means to protect themselves, noting that “It would be best if someone gave them weaponry, and whatever else, which we cannot give, obviously.”
The Israeli official said : It would be best if someone gave them weaponry, and whatever else, which we cannot give, obviously.”

Of course that Israeli official is lying. Israel has been involved, including giving weapons and training, with the PKK Kurds,  KDP Kurds and others for decades now.
“The issue at present is ... to prevent an attack on the Kurds, extermination of the Kurds and any harm to them, their autonomy and region, something that Turkey and Iran and internal Shi‘ite factions and other powers in Iraq and part of the Iraqi government want,” Netanyahu’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM on Friday."

Israel Katz? Any relation to Rita Katz of SITE Intelligence? There is that whole victimhood narrative being pushed, yet again. This was going to present an obvious problem for Abadi.

As mentioned:
"However, Abadi’s long-term success will depend on his ability to prevent another victimhood narrative that will feed Kurdish grievances."
Basnews in closing
"Another Israeli official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, framed Netanyahu’s efforts as a moral imperative. 
“They (Kurds) are a deeply pro-Western people who deserve support, he said."
Pro-western people who deserve support? Where and how to even begin an interpretation of this statement?


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Enormous Flag of Ocalan Raised In Raqqa- Greater Kurdistan Dead?

Giant Ocalan flag flying in the centre of Raqqa. Some on twitter suggest it's a dedication to the USA.  As a supporter of terrorists and terrorism it's a fitting dedication. Very fitting. 

A still shows a flag bearing Abdullah Ocalan's face in the centre of Raqqa
The Kurds also employed a huge appeal to the feminists (identity politics) that litter the west with their toxicity- Story for another day....
I'd describe this as a huge flipping of the bird to the dead. The displaced. The ethnically cleansed. To the nation state of Syria. Only full awareness that the USrael has their back could explain this brazen display.
Middle East Eye

Syrian social media users have reacted with alarm after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) unveiled a large picture of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in the centre of Raqqa following the city's liberation from Islamic State.

Ocalan, who was born in the Turkish province of Sanliurfa, was a co-founder of the PKK in 1978 and led a guerrilla war against the Turkish state that resulted in more than 40,000 deaths.

Although the YPG has claimed it is independent from the PKK, the group acknowledges Ocalan as its ideological figurehead and PKK commanders are thought to control key institutions in northern Syria.
Syrian opposition activists criticised the move on Twitter with some saying that one "terrorist" group, the Islamic State, had simply been traded in for another:
#Raqqa city:: AlBagdadi photo has been replaced with Abdullah Ocalan the leader of #PKK which consider internationally a terrorist group pic.twitter.com/ueWIr8NnaG
 IS captured mostly Sunni Arab Raqqa in 2014, and under its rule the city became infamous for gruesome abuses and as a planning centre for attacks abroad.
WSJ is also reporting this display with a nice twist "Symbol of Kurdish Nationalism Rises in Raqqa"
No mention of displaced, dead, ethnically cleansed Syrian Arab/Christans resident in Raqqa that I can see- Or the fact that this is still Syrian territory? You know, government in Damascus?
 Just "kurdish nationalism"
"Two days after leading the battle to oust Islamic State from Raqqa, U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters on Thursday made clear they have replaced the extremist group as the Syrian city’s new authority.
 Members of the Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces held a news conference in the symbolic public square, where they raised a giant banner of Abdullah Ocalan."

Those Arabs have now been displaced. 

Related. Most definitely related

Pt.1: Reports of Kurdistan's Death are Greatly Exaggerated: Intra Kurdish Conflict 

Pt.2: Reports of Kurdistan's Death are Greatly Exaggerated: All Eggs Not Exclusive to Barzani

Pt.2: Reports of Kurdistan's Death are Greatly Exaggerated: All Eggs Not Exclusive to Barzani

In the first part of this post I had images of eggs piled in one basket.
Which is generally a no/no in investing and other conditions that require diversification.

Don’t Put All your Eggs in One Basket : This is a piece of advice which means that one should not concentrate all efforts/time and/or resources in one area as one could lose everything.  Everything

Common sense in life. In investing. And common sense in geopolitics. 
Yet, I`m suddenly expected to believe that what occurred in Kirkuk, Iraq is a bellwether
suggesting the failure of a Greater Kurdistan aka Israel 2.0. To believe that, unconditionally, would be folly on my part. Perhaps it is an indicator of that possibility?  But, most probably it is not! In Part 1 of this report we covered intra Kurdish conflict- Both as it pertains to this latest episode in Kirkuk and some past history regarding this phenomena
"Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated " is a statement that has been incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain. It also remains a standard Trope- So it's a concept that's well wired into our psyche.  To possibly want to believe exaggerated news? I don't know? Just thinking aloud.
That all said reports of the death of Greater/Independent/Israel 2.0 Kurdistan are greatly exaggerated. To believe that what occurred in Kirkuk signals the end of Kurdistan/Greater/Independent,  also known as Israel 2.0, is choosing to ignore the complexity of the Kurdish reality. While turning a blind eye the very obvious fact that the US and Israel would have very sensibly UTILIZED Kurds affiliated with the PKK. The KDP. The PUK. And other Kurdish militia/ war lord militants. For the simple reason that the US/Israeli  string pullers & others of their kind:  planners/strategists who game  (a procedure or strategy for gaining an end) these situations would be expected to play multiple angles and employ numerous tactics using a variety of players. Understanding these basic concepts is the reason, entirely, for my writing these posts employing the headlines stating reports of Kurdistan's death are greatly exaggerated!

And an exchange of comments for background:
Way to early to even suggest the Kurdistan project is over..
The problem with b's thesis is the assumption that Barzani is the only Kurdish faction with ties to Israel and the US..

" The leading Barzani clan and his KDP party, long associated with Israel..."

As if Israel or the US would play just one Kurdish faction and that's it!

Considering the decades and decades of utilizing multiple Kurdish factions- It doesn't work for me

Plainly speaking: No way was the KDP the only egg in US/Israeli basket
But see the MOA article - No US support. Right now it seems Pehsmerga are collapsing everywhere. Don't disagree it is hell there for millions thanks to the US and the terrorists but there ain't gonna be a Kurdistan, that's my point.
 In the previous post (relinked above) I addressed the reality of the Peshmerga. Each war lord has his own- They are not like a national army at all- So what/whose Peshmerga would be collapsing? Turned out it was the PUK version of the peshmerga

Some recent news on the situation:
Link
“Masoud Barzani on Tuesday blamed the withdrawal from Kirkuk a day earlier on "certain individuals in certain political parties." He did not acknowledge the withdrawal of Kurdish forces from parts of northern and eastern Iraq on Tuesday.
The office of the Kurdish forces accused the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, archrivals of Barzani, of "treason" for colluding with central government to hand over the city.”
Claims of lack of US interest:
“Aside from the incident on the early morning hours on the 16th of October south of Kirkuk that we assess as a miscommunication between Iraqi security forces and a Kurdish checkpoint, there have been no further reports of armed combat or conflict between the two groups,” US Army Col. Ryan Dillon told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday.
“What we have seen is a peaceful handover of areas around Kirkuk, specifically the K1 airfield… we did have troops there,” said Dillon. “What happened was the counter-terrorism service showed up and it was a coordinated effort between the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish security forces. They handed over the keys – if you will – of this installation and it was the Iraqi security forces that began to take security of that area again.”
Yup, the US was all good, even having troops present, but they don't care? They're just standing aside letting the cards fall where they may? Really?  I'm supposed to believe the Iranian Guard was present and the US is ok with that? That's not working for me!
No US support to Barzani's militia- Agreed.  More obviously a betrayal of Barzani and his clan.
That's not surprising to me and has in fact been written about on numerous previous occasions. End of Kurdistan?  Maybe of the Iraqi autonomous zone? 
To my mind Greater Kurdistan aka Israel 2.0 is still the goal.

Odd, wouldn't you say?

Immediately after the Kirkuk incident one of those "suspicious deaths" occurred
Ones that feel as if they've happened at just the right time for some unknown reason

Kurdish MP dies in car accident on Erbil-Kirkuk highway

A Kurdish MP and head of his party’s faction has died of injuries sustained in a car accident on the Erbil-Kirkuk highway while he was returning to the capital from Kirkuk.
Shawn Qaladzai, a senior member of the Kurdistan Islamic Movement (KIM) and head of its faction in the Kurdistan parliament, died in an Erbil hospital on Tuesday, KIM member Abdullah Warti confirmed to Rudaw.
“Today at 4pm, Shawn Qaladzai, head of the Kurdistan Islamic Movement faction in the Kurdistan parliament died,” Warti said.
Qaladzai had visited Kirkuk on Monday after clashes erupted between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces. The city quickly fell to Baghdad after the Peshmerga withdrew.

Qaladzai, 51, held a PhD in history.
Now it's Flashback time : 

The end of Barzani has been coming for a while. I read it in the tea leaves....

October 2015: PKK Challenges Barzani in Iraq- One ring to rule them all?
That post ended with this observation:
"It appears that the PKK is the 'unifying' force amongst the Kurds- I didn't say the agreed upon unifying force- Rather, the unifying FORCE, needed by NATO to create a Kurdish 'state'
Whether or not the Kurdish population itself really wants one." 

May 2016: Bye Bye Barzani. Hello, Israel 2.0 aka Kurdistan

"Recall my prediction that Barzani will likely be out of power by years end?
The news of Gorran leader coming back to Iraq, just a short time ago, made clear the end was near"
Admittedly I thought Barzani would be gone by now, I had given him till years end, 2016, or until early 2017. He's lasted longer then thought- But, his end time is drawing nearer.

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— Change Movement (Gorran) head Nawshirwan Mustafa arrived in Sulaimani International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday after seven months in Europe. (Europe? How about London)
Gorran Politburo member Aso Mahmud said the Gorran leader’s return would affect the political situation in the Kurdistan Region.
You'll notice the leader of Gorran emerged from the region controlled by the PUK?
 Five months ago Nawshirwan Mustafa, general organizer of the Change Movement (Gorran) party in Kurdistan, left Iraq for London under the pretext of receiving medical treatment for chronic back pain. His extended stay has puzzled not only his rivals, but also his supporters. Silence over Mustafa’s condition, as well as Kurdistan’s worsening situation, is generating significant discussion about his political future in the region.  Optimists in Mustafa’s camp are romanticizing a return in which he rallies the masses to protest and unseat the ruling Kurds.


I hate associating beautiful eggs with terrorists- but if the metaphor makes the point, it's worth it

Ignore the inter- kurdish fighting at your own peril. But don't assume their constant bickering means the bigger goal has been forgotten. The US & Israel have options. They have ways to manipulate and game this situation.  In my soon to come post I'll make the case from another angle that the goal of Greater Kurdistan aka Israel 2.0 is not off the table 

A hint: U.S.-backed campaign against IS in eastern Syria to speed up: SDF militia

If Greater Kurdistan aka Israel 2.0 was off the table- there wouldn't be news reports like the link directly above- and copied below:

A U.S.-backed campaign against Islamic State in eastern Syria will accelerate now the jihadist group has been defeated in its former capital Raqqa, a spokesman for U.S.-allied Syrian militias said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which announced the defeat at Raqqa on Tuesday, will redeploy fighters from the city to frontlines with Islamic State in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, Talal Silo told Reuters by telephone.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pt.1: Reports of Kurdistan's Death are Greatly Exaggerated: Intra Kurdish Conflict

 Intra Kurdish divisions, and there are many, need to be stated and understood before one can comprehend the partner post, forthcoming.


 Atlantic Council
In the wake of the September 25 referendum in Kurdistan, the Iraqi government announced on October 15 that it began a military deployment to reestablish authority in Kirkuk in coordination with the Peshmerga. It soon became clear that the Peshmerga mentioned belonged to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)—specifically, the Talabani family wingwhich views aggressive moves toward independence with far more skepticism than its political rivals in the Kurdistan Regional Government dominated by Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The PUK drew the ire of fellow Kurds who viewed the deal as facilitating the federal forces’ reclamation of the territory. To complicate matters further, some reports indicated that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) Quds Force leader Qassim Suleimani appears to have played a role in convincing the Talabani family to broker the deal in the absence of any other international or regional mediator. These events highlight the depth of intra-Kurdish divisions at a time of rapidly rising tensions.
I personally do not believe "reports" about the involvement of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.Of course, it's possible I'm mistaken, but, for now... what is reported and what is fact do not always align

They have denied involvement.- No Iranian Military Role in Kirkuk Operation 
 "A senior official said Iran's military has played no role in the ongoing Iraqi operation to take back northern territories under Kurdish control, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Monday.
"The IRGC played no role in the Kirkuk operation," ISNA quoted Ali Akbar Velayati as saying on Tuesday"
 Additionally it is reported the US is being "neutral" on this situation, despite the reports of Iranian involvement another claim I emphatically do not believe

I cannot hold these two  extremely contradictory claims together - Iran involved/US neutral- as truth.  It is not plausible that the US would be unconcerned about Iranian involvement in the area of Kirkuk- When one thinks about every other contentious issue in the region- most of it revolving around Iranian influence, Iran involved/US neutral, is hard to swallow.
For goodness sakes wasn't Trump just talking about sanctioning the IRGC

Flashback: The US Cannot Go It Alone on Iran- Richard Haas

"Trump announced his intention to place extra sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."

Back to Atlantic Council
The tension stems in part from the Kurdish government’s use of the referendum and the northern Iraqi oil resources as political leverage. Both the Goran movement—another rival Kurdish faction—and the PUK saw the referendum as an attempt by Barzani and his son Masrour to reassert their leadership and re-legitimize KDP authority, even in areas outside of its traditional base. The PUK, which views Kirkuk as part of its base, is unhappy with the arrangements that govern oil exports from Kirkuk’s main fields and channel the revenue through the KDP-controlled government because it places the group at a disadvantageous position. The KDP’s decision in March 2017 to increase its troops in the important Bai Hassan oil field after PUK-affiliated armed men temporarily occupied the North Oil Company’s headquarters, reinforced the view that the KDP was dipping its toes in the PUK’s backyard.
The PUK which is a rival Kurdish group to KDP sees Kirkuk as their base. This is more of the very usual inter Kurdish division- The Kurds have never been a unified lot- The 5 eyes media, alt and main stream don't want this widely known.
The Talabani-aligned PUK suffered another blow at the hands of Kirkuk governor Najm Addin Karim, who was dismissed by the Iraqi government on September 14 in the days leading up to the vote. Karim had become less reliant on the PUK and unilaterally voiced his enthusiastic support for the referendum. This move sparked further division as some PUK factions aligned themselves with KDP’s vision for the region and threatened the Talabani wing’s political relevance.

Are the divisions becoming clear yet? What went on in Kirkuk was/is a struggle for power/ broader control via resource/territorial control.  In the 2nd part of this post there will be relinks to previous reports covering the very subject of Intra Kurdish divisions- Yes, I've written about this all before.
The Iraqi government and Iran’s response to the referendum also fueled intra-Kurdish tension by increasing the pressure on the PUK to distance itself from the KDP. As Iran halted the fuel exports and closed its official border crossings with Kurdistan, it dealt a serious economic blow to the PUK and its base in Sulaymaniya. With most oil revenue going to the KRG, continued economic sanctions by Baghdad and Tehran could significantly undermine the PUK’s already shrinking revenue stream. The Talabani clan had to choose one of two evils: either succumb to the KDP’s domination or make a deal with Baghdad. To protect what political relevance it still has, it seems to have opted for the latter for now.
 Kirkuk came down to a power struggle between two Kurdish factions. With the PUK/Talabani clan opting for what they considered the lesser of two evils, for now, an alliance with Baghdad.
Only for the time being!

So what’s next?

It is unclear whether there is a detailed agreement between the PUK and Iraqi government. Although the Goran published a supposed agreement signed by Bafel Talabani and Hadi al-Amiri, the leading member in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and the Head of Badr Organization, it has not yet been independently confirmed. There are other unconfirmed reports indicating that Bafel Talbani met Abadi in Baghdad the day before the beginning of military redeployment. Regardless, one can safely argue that Baghdad and IRGC-backed groups would support the Talabani family in its attempt to restore control over the PUK as a reward for its cooperation. This support likely includes giving the Talabani-led PUK the right to choose a new governor for Kirkuk and reinstating federal government salary payments to public servants in Suleimaniya. As the Iraqi government restores control over oil from Kirkuk and its revenue, it would also boost the PUK’s leverage vis-à-vis the KDP.

This realignment, however, will only deepen the rift between the PUK and the KDP’s geographic realms (Duhok and Erbil in the case of KDP, Suleimaniya and Kirkuk in the case of PUK). This week’s dramatic events could even throw the KRG into an existential crisis of its own, as some commentators began talking about forming a separate region in Suleimaniya and Halabja. While Erbil consistently pursued its independence from Baghdad over the past few years, Suleimaniya looked more toward independence from Erbil. Although Kurdish nationalism will continue to be a unifying ideology, the failure to build unified institutions that overcome personal, familial, and regional rivalries has impeded its work.

Nonetheless, Baghdad-PUK coordination does not explain the KDP Peshmerga’s withdrawal from Kirkuk and other disputed territories. *The KDP may have felt surprised or betrayed by PUK Peshmerga and would not risk a fight in such an exposed position. "Or perhaps the new generation of Peshmerga, raised in autonomous Kurdistan and having never experienced the guerrilla war against Baghdad, felt ill-prepared for confrontation. Corruption and salary delays have also reportedly affected the Peshmerga’s military capabilities and morale. But the most likely explanation lies in the KDP’s political miscalculation when it unilaterally insisted on holding the referendum, thereby losing US support and that of its key regional backer, Turkey. Without international backing, the KRG could face an impossible uphill battle.
Let's entertain another thought regarding the Peshmerga backed by the KDP . Hoping people realize the Peshmerga are less like a national army and more like militias? (despite the spin)
The author of the oped from the Atlantic Council raising two issues (*)- I'll raise a third. 
The KDP peshmerga is infiltrated with PKK loyalists. Very possible. In fact, highly probable!

Taking the idea of infiltration even further, it is entirely realistic that the PKK has been groomed by the US as a kind of a control both sides of the 'fight' to keep Barzani's powers in check

To make this point hit home I draw your attention to an article from 2008:Michael Rubin- Is Iraqi Kurdistan a Good Ally - It should be read entirely, but, for this post we'll look at just one paragraph
Michael Rubin: It is in this context that Barzani's relations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) become so problematic. Barzani may be a nationalist, but he is also a realist. He dislikes a powerful PKK, not because its terrorism sullies the Kurdish nationalist cause but because it provides an alternative.
  Abdullah Öcalan, the group's leader, sought primacy over his Iraqi Kurdish competitors. "Barzani and Talabani are like feet or arms, but I am the main head or mind," Öcalan explained in a 1998 interview.25
Does anyone, of sound mind, believe this alternative to the PDK was not recognized by both the US/ Israel and intentionally cultivated? Groomed? Encouraged? Does anyone believe the influence Ocalan wields over many thousands of militant and criminal kurds was overlooked by the US and Israel? Is it inconceivable to therefore believe that Barzani is the only game in town?!



Finally ending with the Atlantic Council

What comes next depends on how Baghdad manages its easy victory. Iraq’s hardliners might push for further measures to weaken Barzani and besiege the KDP in its traditional domain. The Dawa block in the Iraqi parliament, the wing close to former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, adopted triumphalist language and called for further action to punish Barzani and the “separatists.” Current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who enjoys a political boost in the wake of reclaiming Kirkuk, might also try to end what Baghdad viewed as unconstitutional arrangements adopted by the KRG—not only in the disputed territories, but even in formally recognized territory. However, Abadi’s long-term success will depend on his ability to prevent another victimhood narrative that will feed Kurdish grievances. The KDP leadership’s miscalculations and accusations of PUK betrayal could further weaken those established groups. More radical groups, such as the PKK or even the Salafi movement in the region, could fill the resulting vacuum which in turn could spark further instability by pointing the finger at the Shia-dominated PMF and its Iranian backers.
Ah those victimhood narratives...... 
And, just how often have I mentioned that the salafi movement is just full of Kurds? Brutal, murderous kurds...?

While Abadi has successfully (and largely unexpectedly) returned the balance of power in favor of the federal government, he needs to give Erbil an exit from this self-inflicted wound. A lot depends on the KDP’s ability to recognize its miscalculations and take responsibility for them, but Baghdad must resist the temptation to take all the spoils of victory. In Abadi’s quest to restore state authority, he must deal with Shia hardliners and IRGC-backed militias; for that, he will need an open door with Erbil.

News of the Death of Kurdistan is Greatly Exaggerated 
Barzani eggs fill just one of several egg baskets

Stay tuned for Part 2

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Annexing Raqqa- Ethnic Cleansing & Where's ISIS ?

As reported in yesterday's post-

 Monday, October 16, 2017: US Backed Forces Take Raqqa After ISIS "surrenders"
 
 Raqqa has been stolen from Syria by US backed proxies- The 5 eyes media calls it liberation. They report that Raqqa has been "freed" I call it annexation. 
Calling this annexation anything except what it is.... would be misleading. Obfuscating. Intentionally so, I would add.

Recall my mentioning the 5 eyes media calling the Kurdish terrorists "landholders"?  Reporting the annexation of Raqqa as liberation or being freed is just more of that misleading language....

The annexation of Raqqa came at great cost to the civilian population- A fact repeatedly mentioned here- Not including the massive civilian casualties, there are reports of nearly 300,000 internally displaced from Raqqa.

US backed Terrorist, Thugs and Annexers of Syria

270,000 displaced from Raqqa need aid

The charity says some 270,000 people who fled the Raqqa fighting are still in critical need of aid. With the high levels of destruction reported in and around Raqqa, most families have nowhere to return home and are likely to stay in camps for months or years to come.
Why would these people stay in camps for years? If Raqqa has been liberated from ISIS, why wouldn't these people be able to get back to their homes and participate as Syrian citizens in the rebuilding of their own homes? Towns? Cities? It would give them incomes and enable their participation in their rebuilding of their communities. Very healing for all.

Clearly the agenda is exactly as I've stated - Ethnic Cleansing
Let me state what is obvious, and annoyingly so, yet again! We are talking about minimally 270,000 resident Syrians, probably more, from just one city who have been intentionally displaced in order to remake the region... Redraw borders. And present a meme of justice being served Oh, really? 

The US bombed and bombed Raqqa while the SDF lay siege to the city- what a hell that had to have been for the residents! I shudder.

Where did ISIS go? It's such a mystery.... Not.  On October 8 it was stated here at the blog
What I think is much more likely!   

"ISIS"(PKK/YPG/Assorted special ops and a veneer of Arabs) is converging in one convenient location where they will be loaded up covertly and transported to Deir ez Zor. To fight SAA and allies.

 Link: ISIS Militants Cleared from Raqqa… Mystery Surrounds Their Destination
Abdel Rahman said that if those fighters withdrew to the east of Deir Ezzor, there should be clarifications in this regard, especially how the convoy was capable of traveling hundreds of kilometers before reaching its final destination.
 Doubtful on the mystery part!

Let's go back to 3 previous posts covering the situation with Deir ez Zor- 
Including the potential for extreme risk

Monday, October 16, 2017

US Backed Forces Take Raqqa After ISIS "surrenders"

BBC:

carrying the flag of annexed Syria
-The Syrian Democratic Forces say they have retaken al-Naim square, where IS once held public executions.
-The official declaration that the city has been recaptured is expected soon, a BBC correspondent reports.
-Earlier, a convoy of local IS fighters and their families left Raqqa as part of a preplanned departure.
-The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, has been besieging the city for nearly four months.
As the US carpet bombed, but, hey who's been paying attention to that!
 -An SDF vehicle has been patrolling the ruined streets with a loudspeaker urging people to come out into the open and "eat hot soup", our correspondent says.
A loudspeaker urging people to come 'eat hot soup' claims the BBC correspondent?

 CBS
-There's been no official declaration of victory, but U.S.-backed fighters in Raqqa aren't waiting for one.
-The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is finished in Raqqa, they said, after hundreds of extremists surrendered over the weekend.  

-They've had some help from U.S. airstrikes, but the Syrian militiamen that did the fighting on the ground are the very definition of a ragtag army. 

The coverage from CBS is pathetic. "some help from US airtrikes"?
Who were the PKK/YPG fighting when ISIS was surrendering all last week?

October 08/2017:  US Commander:Final Assault to Take Raqqa From ISIS Begins Sunday

"ISIS"(PKK/YPG/Assorted special ops and a veneer of Arabs) is converging in one convenient location where they will be loaded up covertly and transported to Deir ez Zor. To fight SAA and allies. 
 After all a stadium is convenient location for an irregular army to converge for ease of transport

Saturday, October 14, 2017:Razors Edge 2: US Faces Imminent Decision on Race for Syria's East

 My understanding of what is/has been occurring in Raqqa is civilian displacement.- Ethnic cleansing. The US has been bombing, heavily, and those that manage to flee have been"saved” by the PKK/YPG who transport them to squalid refugee camps- with access to filthy water! (That’s what’s been reported) These Syrian residents are not going to go back to their homes. Not if the US backed Kurds have anything to do with it. And, they do!

*Russian Ministry of Defence Accuses US of Bombing Raqqa Residential Areas
*TASS:
Carpet bombing of residential areas accommodated by civilians "have brought about nothing but several thousand victims among the ‘liberated’ population"

Annexed Syria flag

The US Cannot Go It Alone on Iran- Richard Haas

Netanyahu Praises Trump for "Bold Decision" on Iran- Fix it or Nix it

The US Cannot Go It Alone on Iran- Richard Haas

Yes, that would be Richard Haas: President of the Council on Foreign Relations

Flashback : CFR President Richard Haass:Gap Growing Between Allies and Turkey

Flashback: Ground Zero: Meme Spirited/Neural Programming/CFR- w Jay Dyer

Of course the US IS NOT going it alone on Iran- The US already has Israel in it’s pocket (or vise versa)  Making Haas’s argument of going alone not credible. Bibi has also informed us all via his Fox news interview that other Arab states are hunky dory with the Trump announcement. So there is no going it alone.
Yesterday: Netanyahu Praises Trump for "Bold Decision" on Iran- Fix it or Nix it

From the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
US President Donald Trump has announced what was long anticipated: that he will not certify that Iran is complying with the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed by the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Iran. Nor will he certify that the suspension of sanctions undertaken by the US as part of the agreement is justified and in the vital national interest of the US.

To be clear, such certifications are not required by the JCPOA. Rather, they are required every 90 days by a law enacted by the US Congress soon after the accord was signed. It is also essential to underscore that Trump did not withdraw from the JCPOA itself. What he chose was a compromise: to make clear his disdain for the agreement without leaving it or reintroducing sanctions that were removed as part of it (a step that would be tantamount to US withdrawal).
 #Fix it or Nix It ?
What happens next is unclear. Congress has 60 days to reintroduce some or all of the suspended sanctions but is unlikely to do so. It might, however, introduce new sanctions tied to Iran’s behavior in Syria or elsewhere in the region. Consistent with this, Trump announced his intention to place extra sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
If the US were to impose new sanctions for any purpose at any time, it would likely find itself alone. The Europeans, China and Russia are highly unlikely to join, not only because of financial self-interest, but also because Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. This is a point made by international inspectors operating under United Nations auspices, as well as by senior US officials, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
Most of us should recall that Turkey circumvented US sanctions placed against Iran by trading in gold for oil. Which really raised the ire of the Americans.

Flashback 2013: Turkey: Halkbank - Role in Iran Gold Transactions Legal

- Gold Trader arrested charged in US with Violating US Imposed Sanctions Against Iran


To argue, as some in America do, that Iran is not complying with the spirit of the JCPOA is meaningless: ‘spirit’ is a term without legal standing. And while it is fair to argue that much of what Iran is doing in the region is a legitimate cause for concern, it is not grounds for reintroducing sanctions under the accord.
Renegotiating the JCPOA to extend the duration of several of its constraints, make inspections more intrusive, and expand its coverage to missiles is attractive in the abstract. But it is totally unworkable in practice, as Iran and most (or all) of the other signatories of the JCPOA would reject these demands. The threat to terminate US participation in the JCPOA if such changes are not made will thus prove either empty or self-defeating if carried out.
The US is not going to terminate it's participation in the JCPOA- The US is simply going to make this an untenable agreement.
 example- hands in the air- we just can't work with this agreement
None of this is meant to argue that the JCPOA is a good agreement. Still, Trump’s decision not to certify was unwarranted and ill-advised. The agreement was the result of a collective effort. American unilateralism now could make forging a common front against Iran much more difficult in the future.
As stated Trump has all the common front he needs
Trump’s move is also bad for US foreign policy. There must be a presumption of continuity if a great power is to be great. Unpredictability can provide a tactical advantage, but it is also a strategic liability.
Here there is an obvious link with North Korea. At some point, the US may determine that diplomacy has a role in managing the North Korean nuclear and missile challenges. But America’s ability to offer a credible diplomatic path will be seriously undermined if others judge that it cannot be trusted to stand by agreements.
There is also a more immediate problem: if the US sets in motion a dynamic that causes the JCPOA to unravel, and Iran resumes nuclear activities currently precluded by the accord, a crisis will erupt at a time when the US already has its hands full with North Korea.

Despite these considerations, it would also be a mistake to focus just on the US announcement and not also on Iranian behavior. In the short run, the world needs to contend with an Iran that is an imperial power, one that seeks to remake large swaths of the Middle East in its image. What is needed is a policy of containment of Iran across the region—including support for the Kurds in northern Iraq and Syria, as well as of other groups (?) and countries that are pushing back against Iran.
As I'd mentioned in this previous post Trumps move to decertify this agreement fit into the pattern of ongoing, for years, destabilizing to remake the region

Flashback: Razors Edge 2: US Faces Imminent Decision on Race for Syria's East

 That the Trump administration has been gunning for Iran is undeniable.  Hell, that even Obama's administration targeted Iran is undeniable. Who has forgotten Stuxnet? Flashback to 2010  & Flashback to 2011  The killing of Iranian nuclear scientists? Flashback to 2010 Arming and training Kurdish proxies to attack Iran? 2017- How about the fact that Kurds aka ISIS attacked Tehran The US training Iranian Kurds for destabilization of Iran? Iranian faction among Kurds trained by US against militants - "Sep. 08 2016: KHARABRUD, Iraq (AP) — An Iranian Kurdish rebel group received military training in weapons and explosives from U.S. and European advisers Decertifying the Iran nuclear deal is part of that ongoing targeting
Richard Haas continues:
In the longer run, the challenge is to deal with the JCPOA’s flaws, above all with its sunset provisions. The agreement ‘parked’ the nuclear problem, rather than resolving it. Important provisions of the accord will expire in either eight or 13 years. At that time, inspections will not prevent Iran from putting in place many of the prerequisites of a nuclear weapons program that could be made operational with little warning.
JCPOA's flaws- Bibi channels Haas or Haas channels Bibi?
It cannot be assumed, as some do, that Iran’s intentions and behaviour will moderate over the next decade or 15 years. On the contrary, Iran is more likely to remain a hybrid regime in which a government coexists with a permanent religious authority and with powerful military forces and intelligence units that exercise considerable political influence and largely operate outside the government’s control.

Dealing with an ambitious and powerful Iran thus entails a broad range of other open-ended challenges that define the ever-turbulent Middle East. Without the JCPOA, however, those challenges would become even more daunting.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Razors Edge 2: US Faces Imminent Decision on Race for Syria's East

The Cipher Brief & loads more Flashbacks and external links throughout the post

Related from earlier today:  Turkish Army’s Multi-Faceted Security Mission in Idlib

"Turkey’s announcement of what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called “a serious operation in Idlib” last Saturday has injected uncertainty into the Syrian civil war, but one thing is clear: militarily, the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad is winning. The question(s) now becomes:(a) to what extent will the U.S. be willing support the advance of its local allies in eastern Syria? And, (b) will it maintain support for the group after ISIS is defeated in Raqqa?"
Assad’s forces now control the majority of Syria’s population and major urban centers, while remaining opposition forces are scattered in unsustainable enclaves across the country and have begun to fight amongst themselves. Meanwhile, the Astana Process – a ceasefire negotiation platform guaranteed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey – has allowed Assad to pacify certain fronts of the war as he escalates the fight against ISIS in the east near Deir al Zour.
For the moment, it seems the battle to capture ISIS’ last remaining territories in the east is Assad’s main focus. And, this has direct ramifications for U.S. policy in the country as Assad’s eastern operations quickly become a race against Syria’s second most powerful landholder: the Kurdish-led and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Syria's Second Most Powerful Landholder. All stolen Syrian territory. This is a point that is very, very rarely broached. And most often obfuscated. The US backed YPG/PKK /SDF rebranded (to hide the reality of what is actually occurring) has annexed a vast portion of Syrian territory with the assistance of their co- occupiers, partners in crime and ethnic cleansing pals the US. I reported on this "landholder" status way back in July. Landholders is an obfuscation for annexation- territory theft, ethnic cleansing etc., "Landholder" does that make you feel better? Doesn't make me feel better. It's like when the term "pacify" is used to obfuscate whole scale slaughter- 

Flashback:  KurdIShIS Redux- YPG/PKK 2nd Geographical Power in Syria

Which makes the Syria Democratic Forces (YPG/PKK) the 2nd largest power in Syrian after the regime forces and militiamen loyal to them, where the Syria Democratic Forces control (YPG/PKK) 22.51% of the size of the Syrian territory, (and they are aiming for 30 percent!)
Back to the Cipher
"The SDF is closing in on the last 300-400 ISIS fighters holed up in a small 1.5 square mile slice of the caliphate’s self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. Meanwhile, alongside U.S.-led coalition forces, the Kurdish-led SDF has turned its eyes to as-yet unclaimed ISIS territory near Deir al Zour and advancing Syrian government forces"

Flashback October 7/17:  US Commander:Final Assault to Take Raqqa From ISIS Begins Sunday

My understanding of what is/has been occurring in Raqqa is civilian displacement.- Ethnic cleansing. The US has been bombing, heavily, and those that manage to flee have been"saved” by the PKK/YPG who transport them to squalid refugee camps- with access to filthy water! (That’s what’s been reported) These Syrian residents are not going to go back to their homes. Not if the US backed Kurds have anything to do with it. And, they do!
 
*Russian Ministry of Defence Accuses US of Bombing Raqqa Residential Areas
*TASS:
Carpet bombing of residential areas accommodated by civilians "have brought about nothing but several thousand victims among the ‘liberated’ population"

Image from TASS
Cipher con't:
"The Assad regime’s battle against rebel forces in the west, especially in the largest opposition-controlled holdout around in Idlib, does continue. However, barring a major offensive or new action spurred by Turkish intervention in the Idlib region, the prize of the day is in the east.
“At the end of the day,” says Syria expert and Fellow at the Washington Institute, Fabrice Balanche, “Damascus’ top priority remains the province of Deir al-Zour. The Syrian rebellion in western Syria is no longer powerful enough to constitute an existential threat.” This means that the regime has a relatively free hand to snap up ISIS territory – effectively the only neutral area for expansion left in a country where local forces backed by major outside powers are hardening their zones of influence.
This race in the east is important to U.S. interests for two reasons. First, as the battle to liberate Raqqa nears its end, a large number of ISIS forces have retreated into Deir al Zour region, and high level targets may be hiding out in this last refuge"
 ISIS fleeing from Raqqa to Deir ez Zor.. Didn't I mention that? I had expected & stated  “ISIS"(PKK/YPG/Assorted special ops and a veneer of Arabs) is converging in one convenient location where they will be loaded up covertly and transported to Deir ez Zor.” This is what has occured and is being reported by the Cipher. That was easy enough to predict.
More "ISIS" are expected to leave today- Wonder where it is their headed?

Reuters

Or......
Additionally - Al masdar had reported that an “arrangement” had been worked out between the Kurds and ISIS- The Kurds were to let ISIS leave with no knowledge of where they were heading- Suuurrreeeeee.....


"Second, if Syrian regime forces capture the town of Abu Kamal and the border crossing at al Qa’im, Assad’s most important regional ally, Iran, will have a clear and secure route to supply its proxy forces across the region from Iraq to Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The stakes are high, and the situation appears to be stalemated. SDF forces are closely supported by the U.S.; Assad’s troops are supported by Russia. So for now, neither side is likely to attack the other, which makes this a game of strategic positioning through the capture of ISIS territory. Assad has quickly drawn troops away from the city of Deir al Zour, which is not yet cleared, to push further east and surround the town of Mayadin. Moving these forces so fast delays the operation to crush ISIS’ remaining forces in Deir al Zour city, but it effectively blocks the SDF from approaching Mayadin"
 Reports from today state SAA and allies have (re)taken Mayadeen
Trend
JordanTimes
If SAA and allies are able to hold Mayadeen what will be the American/Kurdish/Israeli response? SAA and allies have now blocked the SDF out of Mayadeen. Can that be left as is?

"What’s raised even more concern in Washington is the threat of an Iranian “land bridge” to the Mediterranean"

Flashback Trump Will "Decertify" the Iran Nuclear Deal. 

 

 & a comment I 'd posted at Greencrow's blog, transferred to the comment section of the above linked post. It was a response to this statement "The result is a bungled policy which will have either catastrophic, or no consequences at all."

This is a comment I left at Green crows- I'm putting it here because I do not see Trump as bungling anything!
It's probably going to form the basics for a new post

"I hate the 'bungled policy' meme
Along with the incompetence meme...
It's a limited hangout

Trump didn't bungle anything- he is doing exactly that which he is supposed to do.
In 2015 I wrote the nuclear deal was a distraction because the US was already, at that time, involved in destabilizing Iran- The deal was created to make the peace president look good, with the idea of using the deal in the future- in whatever manner deemed necessary- to make Iran look bad, perception management-
to increase sanctions- (by claiming that Iran was non compliant) whatever!
We've seen the US do this time and time again- It's not bungled policy, it's just policy!"
Greencrow was not the blogger who had made the bungled policy comment- that statement belongs to another individual. In my opinion this is not bungled policy. This is policy. Period.
It fits the ongoing situation. It makes sense in the context of all that is occuring  in the region.
That the Trump administration has been gunning for Iran is undeniable.  Hell, that even Obama's administration targeted Iran is undeniable. Who has forgotten Stuxnet?
Flashback to 2010  & Flashback to 2011  The killing of Iranian nuclear scientists? Flashback to 2010 Arming and training Kurdish proxies to attack Iran? 2017- How about the fact that Kurds aka ISIS attacked Tehran The US training Iranian Kurds for destabilization of Iran? Iranian faction among Kurds trained by US against militants - "Sep. 08 2016: KHARABRUD, Iraq (AP) — An Iranian Kurdish rebel group received military training in weapons and explosives from U.S. and European advisers


Decertifying the Iran nuclear deal is part of that ongoing targeting- It cannot be considered bungling. It should not be considered bungling. It should be understood as a tactic.  
Part of a strategy. One more move that has been preceded by others and a preparatory move for what is yet to follow

 Back to the Cipher

If the Trump Administration decides to play a greater role in the Syrian conflict after Raqqa falls, it could block such a land bridge by maintaining the U.S. base at al Tanf – near the southwest border crossing with Iraq – and pushing SDF troops to reach al Qa’im before Assad or allied Iran-backed militias.
However, says Fellow at the Century Foundation and Syria expert, Aron Lund, if that happens, Iran “will just pave a new road through the desert.” In his view, “Iran will have land access” no matter what. “You’re not going to deprive them of that unless Trump decides to go all in and own the whole Syrian-Iraqi border for years or decades to come,” he writes.
This is the do or die scenario I had broached last week

Flashback Syria: Walkin' the Razor's Edge? US Shells SAA/Casualties

 - when it was reported the US had stated, nearly two weeks ago, that they wanted their Kurdish thugs to take this location
"Last week the US-led military coalition said its Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) allies would attempt to seize Mayadeen before the army."
Of course Al Tanf was mentioned, has been mentioned, again and again as the vipers den of terrorists

That kind of investment would likely mean thousands of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria, which is a concept that President Trump has shown little interest in. Accordingly, if the Trump Administration does decide to continue a post-ISIS presence in Syria, it will be more limited in scope, focused on delaying and harassing the extension of Iranian influence and hardening captured ISIS territory against future insurgency.
Yet this strategy also comes at a cost. Continued U.S. military presence in Syria means continued U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG, which forms the military backbone of the SDF. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of its own militant Kurdish organization, the PKK, and U.S. support for the group one of the key factors driving a stake through the heart of U.S. –Turkish relations. With the suspension of visa services between the two countries last Sunday, relations with Turkey – an indispensable NATO ally and ally in the war on terror – have hit their lowest point in 40 years.
There is no easy solution to any of these problems, but the United States is fast approaching a key decision point in the Syrian conflict. Until now, the Trump Administration has limited its Syria policy almost solely to the eradication of ISIS-controlled territory in the country. That territory will soon be gone, but that may only the beginning of the story in this conflict. ISIS and other groups will almost certainly continue to fight as insurgents in the liberated territory, Iran’s influence will continue to spread, and the al Qaeda-affiliated opposition group, Hayat Tahrir al Sham, has become one of the most powerful players in Idlib and other rebel-held areas of Syria. Washington will soon need a clear strategy to either deal with these long term threats – or be prepared to leave.

"Washington will soon need a clear strategy to either deal with these long term threats – or be prepared to leave"

Obviously, I'm of the mind that Washington should leave. That's my opinion. 
However, it's not very likely they will. In closing the map of all the US bases dotting northern Syria is included, again. Those bases  undoubtedly connect to more US bases in Iraq- All those assuredly occupied by US/Israeli/British special forces and yet more Sunni Muslim Kurds generally sheltered by that big PKK umbrella. And of course some useful idiots of all sorts.