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  1. Kurdistan Iraqi government says it cannot implement Article 140 of Constitution Baxtiyar Goran | 14 hours ago Share share Road signs between Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu (PHOTO: Kurdistan24 archive) Kurdistan Kirkuk Article 140 Constitution Iraq ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi government, in a letter to the Kirkuk Provincial Council, claimed the government "cannot implement" Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution in Kirkuk. Recently, the Kirkuk Provincial Council asked the Iraqi government to trigger article 140 of the Constitution in Kirkuk to help "determine the future of the disputed territory between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq." Article 140 states it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to "perform a census and conclude through referenda in Kirkuk and other disputed territories the will of their citizens, by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.” In an official letter, the Iraqi General Secretariat at the Council of Ministers stressed its refusal to hold a referendum in Kirkuk due to "the non-fulfillment of its conditions," referring to the parameters defined in Article 140 and Article 120 regarding the need to complete a census in the county. Rebwar Talabani, Head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, told Kurdistan 24 the Iraqi government has "no intention" of implementing the Constitution, saying there is "no option left for [Kurds] but to use other means outside of the constitutional framework" to determine Kirkuk's future. “We will present our recommendation to the Kurdistan Region's leadership to finally decide on the future of Kirkuk, either by participating in the referendum for independence on September 25 or through a separate referendum,” Talabani said. Editing by G.H. Renaud
  2. Kurdistan seeks billions of dollars from Iraqi gov’t as compensation Posted on July 20, 2017 by Editorial Staff in Politics, Politics Nechirvan Barzani, Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, June 7, 2017. Photo: Courtesy/KRG HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is to prepare a dossier that may request the Iraqi government to pay hundreds of billions of dollars to Erbil as compensation when the two sides sit down to negotiate Kurdistan’s bid for independence. Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has asked the KRG’s Council of Ministers to prepare a detailed dossier with regard to relations between Erbil and Baghdad for negotiation with the central government, a statement from the KRG read Wednesday. The dossier “must explain how the Iraqi government has been dealing with the Kurdistan Region in an unfair and illegal manner, particularly related to the Peshmerga, the budget, and compensating for all the damages conflicted on the Kurdistan Region at the hands of the successive Iraqi regimes, especially compensating the Anfal victims and destruction of the infrastructure of the Kurdistan Region,” the statement read. Kurdish officials say that 182,000 people lost their lives during the Kurdish genocide in the 1980s, called Anfal, and thousands of Kurdish villages were emptied of their populations and destroyed by the Iraqi government. The statement added that the ministers should also estimate the KRG’s share of international loans provided to the Iraqi government and other entitlements under the Iraqi constitution. It also noted Baghdad’s lack of interest in paying for hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis who sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region. PM Barzani also expressed the Region’s readiness to enter a “sound” negotiation with Baghdad “in a peaceful way” to resolve the problems. According to a request signed by PM Barzani in July 2013, the federal government must compensate those who suffered under the policies of former Iraqi governments between 1963 and 2003. In another directive sent a month later that year, the KRG put the total compensation at nearly $387 billion. The KRG’s Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami told Rudaw then that the figures might seem high, but should be into context of the losses suffered. He noted that more than 200,000 Kurds were martyred, thousands of homes destroyed, and the Kurdish regions devastated for three decades. Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government is ruled by Massoud Barzani’s KDP party. Kurdistan considered as the most corrupted part of Iraq. According to Kurdish lawmakers billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil revenues. A Kurdish lawmaker said in March 2017 the amount of $1.266 billion from oil exports and Iraqi Kurdistan’s revenue has gone missing over the last three months. KDP leader Massoud Barzani has been accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Barzani’s son is the Kurdistan region’s intelligence chief and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister. Erbil will hold a referendum on independence on September 25, a vote strongly opposed by Baghdad.
  3. n b- 18/07/2017 6:00 urged to start talks with Iraq ov1807/2017 6:00 am The Kurdistan region of Ir Kurdistan has been urged to push ahead with talks with the Iraqi government on critical issues such as oil and revenue sharing. The Kurdistan Regional Government is holding a referendum on September 25 on independence for the region. The UN envoy for Iraq has warned the road ahead is “extremely challenging“ following the liberation of Mosul, stressing that freeing other territory controlled by Islamic State will not be easy. Jan Kubis told the Security Council on Monday that instituting the rule of law and promoting development will also be crucial. He said “the government will have to do everything possible to give the people back their lives in security and dignity” in order to turn the military victory in Iraq’s second-largest city into stability. Mr Kubis urged it to quickly start negotiations with the Iraqi government on critical issues including oil and revenue sharing and the status of disputed territories.
  4. KUBIS SAYS REFERENDUM SHOULDN’T BE PURSUED WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN BAGHDAD, ERBIL 2 hours ago Views 491 SULAIMANI – Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General (SRSG) for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said referendum on independence of Kurdistan, set for September 25, should not be pursued without understanding between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government. Briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Monday (July 17), Kubis referred to a decision by the Kurdish political parties, excluding Change Movement (Gorran) and Kurdistan Islamic Group, to hold referendum on September 25. The U.N. representative urged Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to hold talks without further delay to urgently find common ground and a roadmap to address the issues including referendum, implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution on disputed territories and oil as well as revenue sharing and budgetary issues. “The absence of meaningful political dialogue could turn a conflict of interests into a different kind of conflict,” Kubis added Kubis further urged the reactivation of the Kurdistan Parliament as the “primary democratic institution to ensure unity and the functioning of democracy” in the Kurdistan Region. “The reopening of the regional parliament, which has been inactive since October 2015, should be based on the principles of democracy and inclusiveness, without preconditions,” Kubis said. The region’s parliament has been in recess since Speaker Yousif Mohammed, a Gorran party member, was blocked from entering the Kurdistan Region’s capital city, Erbil, in October 2015. Gorran ministers were also sacked from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as the political parties failed to reach an agreement on the region’s presidency law.
  5. UN Iraq chief: Baghdad and Erbil need understanding before holding Kurdistan independence referendum July 18, 2017 Middle East & World.Click to share on WhatClick to Tags Baghdad Erb independence Iraq Iraqi Kurdistan Kurdistan Kurreferen The Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Ján Kubiš, on Monday called on the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government to enter into negotiations to prevent conflict before the Kurds hold independence referendum on 25th of September. “On 11 July, President Barzani reiterated, during his address to the European Parliament in Brussels, the KR-I’s determination to hold the referendum as planned, while maintaining that no country had clearly opposed it. It is important to note that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Change Movement (Gorran) have demanded that the regional parliament of Kurdistan should be reactivated before the referendum,” Kubiš said. “Such an important issue ought not to be pursued without understanding between the federal government and that of the Kurdistan Regional Government,” he said in a briefingin the Security Council. “I, therefore, urge both parties to enter into negotiations without further delay, in the spirit of genuine partnership and based on the Constitution, to urgently find common ground and a roadmap to address this and other critical topics, notably implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution on disputed territories, including the status of Kirkuk, budgetary issues, oil and revenue sharing, and other areas and principles that determine the relations between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government,” the UNAMI chief said. “The absence of meaningful political dialogue could turn a conflict of interests into a different kind of conflict. Prime Minister Abadi’s and President’s Barzani call for dialogue, should be followed by meetings of negotiation teams as a matter of urgency,” Kubiš added. Moreover, the UN Iraq chief called on the Iraqi Kurds to reactivate the parliament which has been inactive since disputes broke out between Kurdish parties in October 2015. “In regards to internal politics in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, I further urge as a matter of priority, the reactivation of a functional democratic administration, notably the regional parliament as the primary democratic institution to ensure unity and the functioning of democracy in the region,” he said. “The reopening of the regional parliament, which has been inactive since October 2015, should be based on the principles of democracy and inclusiveness, without preconditions,” he concluded.
  6. Resolving Article 140: Settling the Issue of Iraq’s Disputed Territories 7/13/2017 10:53:00 AM Views 652 Megan Connelly, Matthew Barber + - Resolving Article 140: Settling the Issue of Iraq's Disputed Territories Ahead of an Independence Referendum for Kurdistan Contested Lands Last month, talks led by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) at the presidential residence, Seri Resh, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) led to a decision to hold a referendum this September on Kurdistani independence. Though the obvious assumption would be that only residents of the area seeking independence (i.e., the Kurdistan Region) would be able to vote on a decision to secede from Iraq, this referendum is being presented as a vote in which residents of Iraq’s disputed territories will also participate. The disputed territories are areas in Iraq over which both the Iraqi Federal Government (IFG–based in Baghdad) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG–based in Erbil) claim administrative rights. Currently, the Kurdistan Region is an autonomous jurisdictional entity that is part of a federal Iraq but which has its own government, armed forces, immigration laws, administrative bureaucracies, and so forth. Prior to any discussion of potential independence for the Kurdistan Region, it should be understood that the disputed territories are parts of the Nineveh, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, and Diyala governorates over which the respective governments of Baghdad and Erbil have been locked in conflict since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Even if the KRI was to not seek independence, the status of each disputed territory as a domain of the Federal Government or the Regional Government must be resolved. Kurdistani independence, therefore, involves more than the question of whether the inhabitants of the KRI desire independence; it also requires determining which disputed territories (all of which are outside of the official boundaries of the KRI) would be included in the KRI, and ultimately within the new independent state. For years, the disputed territories have been exploited for their deposits of oil and natural gas, but have often been neglected amid a state of political and administrative limbo between Baghdad and Erbil. Many disputed territories have been under Kurdish military or administrative control following the US invasion of Iraq, even though services and infrastructure in many of these territories continue to be funded through the IFG budget. Now, as Kurdish security forces, Hashd al-Sha’bi, and other ethno-sectarian militias seek to consolidate their territorial gains with the liberation of the remaining Islamic State (IS) enclaves in the disputed territories, it is urgent the IFG and the KRG establish clear jurisdictional boundaries by peaceful means—to not do so could spell their eventual delineation in battle. Therefore, Erbil and Baghdad must revisit Article 140, the transitional provision of the Iraqi Constitution that mandates the normalization, census, and referendum processes that must occur to determine the future status of each disputed territory, individually. This will resolve whether the territories will become part of the KRI or will remain within the IFG’s system of governorates. Why the Referendum Does Not Provide a Solution for the Disputed Territories Acting KRG President Barzani has declared that the referendum will be a solution to the ongoing Article 140 dispute. But according to Hemin Hawrami, Senior Advisor to the acting president, the sole question that will be posed to voters in the referendum is: “Do you want an independent Kurdistan?” No one disputes the fact that the vast majority of Kurds desire independence. One Kurdish researcher framed this observation as follows: “Kurdistan does not need a referendum because the history and geography and 100 years of struggle have answered this question for the whole world.” The referendum’s question, therefore, would seem almost superfluous for the KRI. But while the referendum’s proposed question may nevertheless be appropriate to direct at residents of the KRI, it is a premature question for inhabitants of the disputed territories. Whether or not voters want independence is not a relevant inquiry as regards the complex geographic, demographic, and political realities in the disputed territories, where the question that should be posed is: “Do you want your district to become a part of the Kurdistan Region?” The idea that populations living outside of the Kurdistan Region could participate alongside residents of the KRI in a vote that would establish a basis for the statehood of a region whose future borders are not yet determined is simply confusing for Kurds, Iraqis, and outside observers alike. It is clear that at least two questions—not one—must be answered by separate groups of Iraqis. Manipulating Patriotism The phrasing of the referendum’s question is indicative of ethnic outbidding. By asking voters if they “want independence,” as opposed to inquiring, for example, as to whether voters approve of a parliamentary motion to declare independence, the KDP is playing a semantics game designed to force voters to deliver a “patriotic” or “unpatriotic” response, a tactic to rally broad nationalist support behind the KDP’s drive for political dominance while discrediting the domestic opposition by casting doubt on their supporters’ kurdayeti. Beyond the realm of mere words, Kurdish authorities have already begun arresting dissenters and shutting down media centers that publish literature that “uses inappropriate language in connection with the referendum,” as well as harassing and assaulting journalists and writers who have expressed opposition to the referendum. To garner support for the vote, the Kurdish nationalist parties—and the KDP in particular—have been aggressively fueling Kurdish irredentist sentiments and issuing provocative statements, such as KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani’s affirmation that the “disputed territories are no longer disputed,” the acting president’sassertion that opposition to the referendum would be met with a “bloody war,” and a KDP MP’s call for the legal prosecution and punishment of the political opposition to the vote. Moreover, the KDP has linked issue of Kurdish statehood with that of Masoud Barzani’s continued leadership and his defiance of Parliament’s attempts to limit presidential power. The alarming tone of this discourse rose to a crescendo this week when Barzani, before the European Parliament, accused opposition MPs of concocting an “attempted coupt d’etat”against him in Parliament prior to its dissolution by the KDP, and of being responsible for the deaths of children in the 2015 riots in the Sulaimaniyah Governorate. Furthermore, the language of the referendum announcement itself does not acknowledge that disputed territories are “disputed,” instead referring to them as “Kurdish areas outside of the KRG’s administrative area.” This language does not recognize the presence of the very populations whose existence is the origin of the disputed territory dilemma: Arabs, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Turkoman, certain Yazidis who do not identify as Kurds, and others. In addition to validating aggression against Kurdish domestic opposition, this kind of antagonistic, nationalist campaign will do nothing to assuage the fears and mistrust of minorities and non-Kurdish populations with competing claims to self-determination in the disputed areas. This could ultimately provoke violent reactions with armed sectarian and partisan militias, with their various regional sponsors poised to intervene. Ahead of Referendum, Yazidis Targeted for Supporting Baghdad In the last few years, observers have become increasingly familiar with how intimidation is employed to pressure minority populations of the disputed territories into political submission. Recent punitive measures against Yazidis who favor IFG rather than KRG administration for Shingal (Sinjar in Arabic) are a characteristic—and unsurprising—case in point. A new Human Rights Watch report has this week exposed a tactic that the KDP asaish are using to deter Yazidis from aligning with Baghdad: expelling displaced Yazidi families from the IDP camps in Dohuk and evicting them from the KRI, if a family member joins the Baghdad-supported Hashd al-Sha’bi forces in Shingal. This tactic is unsurprising, as the KDP asaish already expelled (from the same camps in 2015-2016) displaced Yazidi families if a family member joined the PKK-affiliated YBŞ, a local Yazidi force in Shingal that challenges KDP hegemony. The Yazidis of Shingal are a perfect example of the challenge of Iraq’s disputed territories. This population has long stymied KDP attempts to smoothly incorporate Shingal into the KRI. Yazidis are independently-minded, have repeatedly been victimized by external parties vying for control of their areas, and as a result are mixed as to whether they even identify as Kurds. Unlike Yazidis from villages inside the KRI, many Yazidis from Shingal resolutely identify only as “Yazidi,” maintaining that it is not only their religious affiliation but also their ethnic identity. The vast majority resent Kurdish politics and would prefer a quiet form of local governance. This hasn’t stopped the KDP from insisting that Shingal’s population wants to be included in the KRI, and they always have an array of token Yazidi mouthpieces ready to authenticate this claim. The displacement of the majority of Shingal’s Yazidi population to the KRI during the Yazidi Genocide stirred fears among much of the community that they could be subjected to attempts to be resettled in the KRI rather than helped to return to Shingal and rebuild their lives. A KDP-enforced economic blockade of Shingal (implemented all of 2016 and early 2017) deliberately slowed the returns of Yazidi IDPs to Shingal. One motivation for this measure appears to have been to try to starve the YBŞ of resources and prevent a larger civilian support base for the YBŞ from growing in Shingal. Despite this measure to inhibit civilian returns, the KDP did not hesitate to evict families from the camps and return them to Shingal when their family members joined the YBŞ. Though many families wanted to return and rebuild in areas that had been freed from IS, other families were not yet ready to do so, and this punitive measure placed pressure on families to beg their young people to not join those forces. For about two years, the KDP has branded the PKK affiliates as “foreign” entities, not acknowledging that their rank and file are comprised of local, Shingali Yazidis. The “foreign” argument is even less applicable to the Hashd al-Sha’bi: Yazidis are effectively being criminalized for the choice to work with their own federal government. Nevertheless, the asaish’s current expulsions follow the same pattern as the earlier YBŞ evictions: Though Yazidi families ultimately hope to return to a secure Shingal, many are not ready to leave the camps—for economic reasons as well as out of concern regarding the now three-way political standoff in Shingal. Targeting vulnerable families with forced evictions is therefore a powerful political deterrent. Shingal is now divided by three political competitors, each having its own Yazidi militias on the ground: KDP-affiliated Peshmerga, PKK-affiliated YBŞ, and the Baghdad-affiliated Hashd al-Sha’bi. Two out of these three factions (with their associated civilian supporters) obviously do not favor inclusion into a KDP-dominated KRI. Most of Shingal’s Yazidis, therefore, do not oppose Kurdistani independence, but simply view it as none of their concern since they hope to administer Shingal locally and separately from the KRI. This should adequately illustrate how a single-question referendum on Kurdistani independence is entirely incapable of resolving disputed territory issues. Practical Problems with Holding the Referendum in Disputed Territories The proposed date of September 25, 2017 for the referendum initially gave the KRG less than four months to raise and allocate money, resources, and personnel to ensure that residents of the disputed territories would be represented. Facilitating the participation of people from the disputed territories will be extremely difficult, and quite costly, due to high rates of internal displacement. So far, only $6 million have been ear-marked for the referendum and the KRG can expect no financial support from its neighbors and international supporters, virtually all of whom have come out against the referendum. Even Turkey, one of the closest allies of the KDP,has spoken out strongly against the referendum. Additionally, none of the KRG’s international partners or the United Nations have thus far expressed a willingness to monitor the referendum. In fact, the United Nations recently issued a statement emphasizing that it “has no intention to be engaged in any way or form” in monitoring the independence referendum due to its commitments to the territorial integrity of Iraq. Therefore, aside from repeated assurances from Erbil that the process will be fair to ethno-religious minorities in the disputed territories, the KRI has not announced any plan to accommodate them or hold separate referenda on their preferences. Rudaw has recently reported that as of yet, no preparations have been made for the referendum in Kirkuk, the most populated of all disputed territories. Typically, funding for elections would come from the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (IHEC), but the Commission’s Kirkuk office has denied that it has a budget or a plan for the referendum. Since the referendum was initiated unilaterally, not through mutual discussion with Baghdad, the KRG cannot expect to receive support for the referendum from the IFG. The President of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, Rebwar Talabani, has proposed that Kirkuk prepare on its own for the referendum without relying on funding from the IHEC, but with just another two and a half months to prepare, there has been no consensus in the Provincial Council on how the referendum should be funded, or even regarding the legality of holding the referendum in the province. Holding the vote for the people of Shingal could be even more difficult. Shingal’s Yazidis are now divided among the many thousands in the IDP camps of Dohuk; thousands more in IDP camps in Syria and Turkey; tens of thousands of recent migrants to Europe (most of whom would prefer to return to a secure Shingal); others who have migrated to Canada, the US, and Australia; IDPs in camps on Shingal Mountain administered by PKK-affiliated institutions; returnees to damaged/destroyed areas in KDP-administered areas north of Shingal; returnees to Yazidi villages south of Shingal now under the control of Hashd al-Sha’bi. What is the KRG’s plan to make sure that all of these people are able to freely and fairly vote in the referendum? In a recent interview with Kirkuk Now, Mahama Khalil (appointed by the KDP to act as unelected mayor of the Shingal District) also said that no preparations had been made to conduct the vote in Shingal. In the interview, he also exhibits a certain confusion as to the proper legal channels through which to conduct the vote and stated defiantly that the PKK and Hashd al-Sha’bi will not be able to disrupt the freedom of Yazidis to vote in the referendum. But the real question should be: What will guarantee that the KDP does not apply pressure on the voters? If the KRG intends to facilitate the Shingali people’s free, democratic decision as to the future of their district, things are off to a bad start with their asaish already punishing and intimidating those who express a desire to see Shingal remain under Baghdad’s administration. Opposition to the Referendum within the KRI Beyond the anticipated debacle of trying to hold the referendum in the disputed territories, the Kurdish mainland may also temper the success of the referendum. Though the vast majority of Kurds support the principle of Kurdish independence, there is significant anxiety among many in the KRI as to whether this referendum is being pursued in the right way and for the right reasons. Contrary to assertions that this referendum has the backing of a broad political coalition, this has not been the case. The June 7 meeting at Seri Resh that resulted in the decision to hold the referendum did not include Gorran or the Kurdistan Islamic Group. The Gorran-led political opposition regards the referendum as a vote on the legitimacy of the KDP’s monopolization of power, Masoud Barzani’s unilaterally extended presidency, and the abandonment of parliamentary democracy. Their sense is that the referendum would effectively make the KDP the vanguard of the nationalist movement and discredit the opposition, which insists upon institution-building or at least having working democratic institutions prior to statehood. Together, Gorran and the Kurdistan Islamic Group constitute 25% of Parliament. The Kurdistan Islamic Union has also announced its refusal to back the vote without parliamentary approval. It is also unclear the degree to which the PUK supports the referendum. Despite the participation of PUK Leadership Council members in the Seri Resh conference on June 7th, the issue of holding an independence referendum has divided the PUK. In general, the PUK supports the reactivation of Parliament prior to holding an independence referendum. However, while some have backed the KDP’s proposal to reactivate the legislature with the current Speaker, Dr. Yusuf Muhammad, for one session, thirty-four out of fifty-five PUK Leadership Council members support not just reactivation, but “normalization”—i.e. Gorran’s argument that Parliament must be reactivated and remain active until the next parliamentary elections (with Dr. Yusuf as Speaker)—and oppose the nomination of a PUK delegate to the Referendum Committee prior to Parliament’s reactivation. KRG Vice-Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and Kirkuk Governor Najmaddin Karim’s attendance—in defiance of the wishes of the majority of the Leadership Council—at the Referendum Committee hearings and at the KRG’s delegation to the European Parliament this week (to garner support for the referendum) prompted outrage within the PUK politburo. Mahmoud Sangawi, a member of the Leadership Council and General Commander of the Germian Region, lashed out at Talabani and Karim: “They are not representatives of the PUK. They represent only themselves.” Is the Referendum Actually Binding? While acting President Masoud Barzani has promised that the referendum on independence would be “binding,” Barzani and others, including KDP executive and former Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, have qualified this by saying that independence will not be declared immediately after the vote, but rather that the vote would give the KRG a mandate to open independence negotiations with Baghdad. In fact, it is doubtful that the KRI would benefit politically or financially from declaring independence. With a budget shortfall of over $25 billion, the KRI has had extreme difficulty paying public salaries and pensions, providing services, and maintaining infrastructure in its administrative areas. A declaration of independence would mean that the KRI would not only be responsible for providing salaries to KRI employees, but also for public servants that are currently paid by the IFG, as well as providing utilities, water, and other services to the disputed territories. The KRI’s Ministry of Natural Resources, along with the provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Salah ad-Din also have production-sharing agreements (PSAs) with the IFG to extract and market Kirkuk crude that provide for significant infrastructure development in the disputed territories, the salaries of KRI civil servants, and healthy dividends for KDP- and PUK-linked production and marketing firms and the KDP-led Ministry of Natural Resources.Moreover, the announcement on the referendum came less than two weeks after the KRG Central Bank announced that it agreed to be taken over by the Iraqi Central Bank and the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced plans to finance the construction of a new oil refinery in Kirkuk to the tune of $5 billion. With all of the above in mind, it seems that participating parties in the Referendum Committee are more interested in gaining leverage against the IFG and their domestic political rivals, and in maximizing the political and financial gains of the KRI’s two dominant parties (the KDP and PUK). Whether the KRG actually intends to declare independence or not, the referendum campaign itself could nevertheless stir violent tensions among the various populations and political factions contending for the disputed territories. The referendum’s lack of planning, preparation, legal definition, or multilateral participation sets a dangerous precedent and may also be perceived as anticlimactic by many Kurds who have long struggled for independence. The Solution To ensure the stability and security of Iraq and Kurdistan, both the Federal and Regional governments must revisit Article 140 and make a concerted effort to determine once and for all the status of the disputed territories. Of course, implementation will be even more difficult now than it was twelve years ago, mainly because demographic normalization (which must precede the execution of a census and referendum) has been disturbed by population displacements in the wake of the IS invasion. With so much at stake and so many competing territorial claims to evaluate and negotiate, it will be extremely difficult for two governments that doubt each other’s good faith to commit to this long and arduous process. Yet, continuing to avoid the Article 140 process, as the pressure continues to build on all sides, will yield severe consequences for both governments as well as for their international allies. Most analysts agree that the international community, particularly the United Nations and the United States, must step up its involvement in order to help stabilize Iraq’s post-IS landscape and adopt a framework to address the challenges posed by the jurisdictional conflicts in the disputed territories. Currently, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI)’s mandate is limited to humanitarian and diplomatic assistance at the request of the Government of Iraq. Furthermore, the mandate’s scope is overly-broad, expressing the UN’s intention to promote economic and institutional development throughout Iraq, but without any clear focus on addressing the territorial disputes between the KRG and the IFG. Therefore, the UN will need a mandate specifically tailored to the mediation of the Article 140 process that will provide for the necessary resources for resolving territorial and property disputes and completing the normalization (or de-Arabization) process, conducting censuses, and referenda. More than simply revisiting Article 140, the mandate must also address the effects of civil war, population displacements, and genocide that have occurred since the passage of the Iraqi Constitution. It will be necessary to secure KRG and IFG cooperation to reconstruct and provide adequate services to recently liberated cities like Shingal and Jalawla. It should also bring community leaders, regional and federal officials together to respond to the requests of small, territorially concentrated ethnic minorities for local administrative autonomy. Finally, but most importantly, the mandate should include the deployment of armed peacekeepers to prevent the eruption of clashes that could sabotage progress on the diplomatic and humanitarian end. Indeed, research has shown that multi-faceted missions (those that include diplomatic, humanitarian, and security provisions) are more likely to have successful, long-term outcomes than missions with a purely humanitarian or security focus.[ii] Although such a mission will depend on the KRG’s withdrawal of the present referendum proposal, independence for the KRI should not be off the table. Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi has even conceded that the Kurds have a right to self-determination, up to and including their own state. However, if the Kurdish parties truly intend to secede from Iraq, the UN and Iraq’s international partners should condition their support for the independence process on the KRG’s commitment to the peaceful resolution of territorial, energy, and water disputes with the IFG, as well as its observance of the Region’s own laws and the authority of its own legally established Regional decision-making bodies. For example, the UN should require that the KRG reactivate its Parliament, hold legislative and presidential elections, and encourage the passage of a motion in Parliament authorizing the formation of a high committee to plan an independence referendum before it agrees to monitor the vote. Likewise, by obtaining guarantees from the international community to support a future independence referendum that is conducted in accordance with the above conditions, Barzani could save face domestically while withdrawing the current referendum. Although UN peacekeeping missions do not have a stellar success rate, this can be partly attributed to the difficulty of the missions that the UN accepts, the lack of willingness on the part of host nations to give the UN the flexibility it needs to succeed, and a lack of cooperation from regional and international partners. While resolving territorial disputes will invariably be a grueling process, a mission to carry out Article 140 can still succeed if domestic, regional, and international partners are committed to it. Of course, a UN peacekeeping mission would be a bitter pill to swallow for both Baghdad and Erbil. It will be costly, it will require a long-term commitment, and parties will have to accept compromises that they may perceive as sub-optimal. Ultimately, the value of peace for both sides will outweigh the value of the benefits that either side would expect to gain from continuing down the current path, which will inevitably lead to armed conflict, whether by design or miscalculation. The diplomatic efforts of Iraq’s neighbors and international partners, particularly the US, will be crucial in raising the IFG and KRI’s perceived costs of noncompliance (such as threatening a withdrawal of military or financial support from the KRG and/or IFG) and reducing their perceived costs of compromise by offering incentives for both to accept UN conditions. Additionally, US influence will be necessary to secure the resolution from the Security Council to authorize a multi-faceted peacekeeping mission in the disputed territories. Conversely, the UN must obtain guarantees of cooperation from the potential regional spoilers Iran and Turkey, as well as the United States. This will also require mutual assurances and recognition that a peaceful resolution of the Article 140 disputes is the optimal outcome and that all parties will commit their resources to that end. However, with the Iranian-backed Hashd al- Sha’bi making gains along the Syrian border and the mobilization of Turkish armed forces in the KRI (as well as Turkish air strikes against PKK and YBŞ positions in Shingal), regional actors appear to be on a war footing in Iraq. So is the US. With a weakened Department of State, a newly-empowered Pentagon, and an Ambassador to the UN who recently bragged about cutting the peacekeeping budget by over half a billion dollars, hope of US support for peacemaking in Iraq may prove illusory as well.
  7. Erbil, Baghdad ready to ‘reorganize’ cooperation on oil, electricity By Rudaw 16 hours ago The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) (L) in a meeting with visiting Iraqi government officials. Photo: Rudaw. ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Erbil and Baghdad are ready to “open a new chapter” in their relations, and have discussed the possibility of forming a joint committee to “reorganize” the existing cooperation between the two governments, a statement from the Kurdistan government read following a high level meeting Wednesday morning in Erbil. An Iraqi delegation that included the ministers for oil, electricity, agriculture, education, and a representative from the finance ministry met with their counterparts in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as well as Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his deputy Qubad Talabani. The visit by the Iraqi government delegation is said to have been made upon the request of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The two sides showed that they are ready to “open a new chapter and continue dialogue to resolve their problems,” the KRG statement read. They “also discussed the formation of a joint committee to further and reorganize the mechanism of the cooperation between Erbil and Baghdad in the fields of oil, electricity in such a way that it takes into consideration the interests of all the Iraqi people.” The KRG statement did not disclose the details of the new mechanism for cooperation between the two governments. The visit, the first since Erbil announced its plans to hold an independence referendum on September 25, came amid outstanding issues between the two sides, mainly related to the border and oil, as well as the issue of disputed areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, that will take part in the referendum. Rudaw had learned that a major topic of discussion between the two delegations was the installation of a new refinery in Kirkuk and the question of oil exports from the city. Baghdad has been opposed to the independent export of oil by the Kurdistan government to the outside world, but Erbil has been selling its oil since 2014 with increasingly fewer challenges from the central government.
  8. IRAQI DELEGATION MEETS TOP KRG OFFICIALS TO DISCUSS BAGHDAD, ERBIL RELATIONS 19 mins ago ERBIL — Officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and a delegation from the Iraqi government met on Wednesday (July 12) for talks on pending issues between Baghdad and Erbil. Both sides were in agreement to form a joint committee in an effort to resume dialogue and deal with pending issues between Erbil and Baghdad, an official KRG website reported. Officials from both sides said they are seeking different means to promote and reorganize cooperation and relations in the fields of oil and electricity, according to the KRG website. The Iraqi delegation included ministers of oil, agriculture, education and electricity as well as an official from the finance ministry, while KRG officials included KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani. Post Islamic State (ISIS) Iraq was also discussed and there was an agreement on the need for cooperation to reconstruct liberated areas and provide public services. Tensions between the KRG and the central government hit a high in 2015, after officials from both sides accused each other of failing to abide by the terms of an oil revenue sharing deal struck by officials in December 2014. Officials from the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad signed the revenue-sharing agreement in December 2014 which would have seen the Iraqi federal government provide the region with 17 percent of the federal budget in return for oil exports amounting to 550,000 barrels per day (bpd). That deal collapsed months later when the KRG ceased transfers to the Iraqi State Organization for Marketing Oil (SOMO) altogether. Baghdad in turn stopped the transfers of budget payments. (NRT)
  9. Kurdistan Iraqi delegation in Erbil to discuss oil, Kirkuk refinery and water resources By Rudaw 1 hour ago The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) (L) in a meeting with visiting Iraqi government officials. Photo: Rudaw 11:20 a.m. The Iraqi government delegation headed by Abduljabbar al-Luaibi, Iraq's oil minister is in a meeting with Nechirvan Barzani prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and a number of cabinet ministers. Deputies from the ministries of electricity, agriculture, education and finance are among the delegates of the Iraqi government. ---- 10:21 a.m. ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A high-level Iraqi government delegation of oil, education, health and agriculture officials arrived in Erbil on Wednesday, reportedly to discuss a range of issues among them energy and water resources. Rudaw has learnt that a major topic of discussion between the Iraqi delegation and Erbil is the installation of a new refinery in Kirkuk and the question of oil exports from the city. The delegation is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and other officials from the Kurdistan Region. Rudaw's Sangar Abdulrahman reported from the Erbil International Airport that delegation is headed by Abduljabbar al-Luaibi, Iraq's oil minister. Deputies from the ministries of electricity, agriculture, education and finance are among the delegates. This is the first official visit by Iraqi government officials to Erbil since the Kurdistan Region announced last month that it would hold a referendum on independence in late September, a move that has received strong opposition by Baghdad. The visit by the Iraqi government delegation is said to be upon the request of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
  10. Iraqi Security Member Claims Beheading 50 IS Militants Basnews English 02/07/2017 - 19:06 Iraq MOSUL — Member of the Iraqi security forces claims he has beheaded 50 Islamic State (IS) militants, as a payback for the crimes committed by the extremist group. Falah Aziz, who was presented as a member of the Iraqi Federal Police, in a video by the Swedish Expressen channel, claimed he has beheaded around 50 IS militants, as a revenge for what they have done to the Iraqi civilians since 2014. In the video he also said that the 50 members of the extremist group were among 130 others captured by the Iraqi security forces, and later on decapitated by Aziz, as a payback for the death of four his elder brothers. Aziz further explained that his actions were mostly affected by the fact that his brothers, and his mother were killed by the IS insurgents, which has let him believe he should revenge by doing what they have done to his family.
  11. Kurdistan says buyers of its crude not taking oil to United States Kurdistan says buyers of its crude not taking oil to United States Reuters | Jun 29, 2017, 06.55 PM IST * Erbil says doesn't want to upset Baghdad amid dialogue * Kurdish independent oil sales going to Europe, Asia By Dmitry Zhdannikov LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) - Iraqi Kurdistan said on Thursday its crude buyers had told it they were not taking oil to the United States as the semi-autonomous region seeks to avoid tensions with the central government in Baghdad. Baghdad has long opposed independent Kurdish oil sales and managed to block tankers destined for the U.S. market several years ago. But the central government has eased its opposition to Kurdish crude exports over the past year as Baghdad and Erbil fought jointly against Islamic State militants. "I have made inquiries with our crude buyers and was assured that no cargo with crude is going to the United States," Kurdistan's natural resources minister Ashti Hawrami told Reuters, following media reports Kurdish crude was en route to the U.S. market for the first time since 2014. Erbil sells oil in Europe and Asia via trading houses as well as directly to Russia's Rosneft although none of its crude has reached the United States, a core export market for Baghdad. When the tanker Neverland sailed through Gibraltar last week with Kurdish crude aboard, it appeared to be heading across the Atlantic. "Oil could be stored or travelling to other places, but not the U.S.," said Hawrami, adding that the Kurdistan Regional Government was selling its crude on a free-on-board basis and hence not directly involved with final buyers. "We don't have any intention of upsetting Baghdad. Our policy is to discuss and solve problems and not to create new obstacles," Hawrami said, adding joint discussions were ongoing on oil production, exports, refining and power generation. "It is a constructive dialogue ... Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had asked to put together a cooperation committee and we hope to see them soon in Erbil for a new round of talks," Hawrami said. (Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson)
  12. Kurdish Oil Appears Bound for U.S. Again After Three-Year Pause By Julian Lee 22 June 2017, 17:48 BST Oil tanker Neverland exits Mediterranean sailing due west Region shipped a handful of cargoes to the U.S. in mid-2014 A worker is seen at an oil refinery near the village of Taq Taq, in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan, on May 31, 2009. Photographer: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images An oil tanker carrying Kurdish crude appears to be en route to the U.S., reviving a trade from three years ago that became a symbol of a dispute between the semi-autonomous region in Iraq and the federal government in Baghdad. The Aframax tanker Neverland, which normally hauls about 650,000 barrels, exited the Mediterranean Sea two days ago, according to vessel tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. A week earlier, it left a port in southern Turkey from where Kurdistan Regional Government cargoes are shipped by traders. The KRG, which is preparing for a referendum later this year, has long been pushing for greater independence in oil sales, saying the Kurdish region wasn’t getting its share of the federal budget. The dispute escalated three years ago when Kurdish deliveries to the U.S. were blocked and Iraq threatened to take action against companies involved. Those tensions simmered down somewhat as both sides worked together to regain control of the country’s north taken by Islamic State fighters in 2014. The Neverland’s tracks show it to be heading toward the U.S. East Coast, though it could still go elsewhere. Despite going close to full speed at 13 knots, the vessel’s destination is noted by its crew as “for orders,” a designation for ships that haven’t been given definitive sailing instructions. Michael Howard, an adviser to the Kurdish minister of natural resources, said he was unaware of the ship’s destination. August 2014 story on Kurdish shipments to the U.S., dispute with Iraq The ship earlier this month collected cargo from a loading terminal at Ceyhan on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast, which is used to load cargoes that have come by pipeline from the Kurdish part of Iraq. A small proportion of the crude delivered from the terminal is sold by Iraq’s state oil company, known as SOMO, but all such sales this year have been shipped by pipeline to the Kirikkale refinery near Ankara, according to information from a local port agent. If the Neverland completes its voyage across the Atlantic, it will be following a route taken by only a small number of ships carrying Kurdish crude. In mid-2014, a handful of vessels delivered more than a million barrels from the region, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ‘Smuggled’ Oil Iraq’s federal government in Baghdad threatened to sue buyers and shippers of crude sold by the KRG after the two sides failed to agree on control of oil flows and payment receipts, dubbing any such shipments "smuggled" oil. The tanker United Kalavryta, which loaded around 1 million barrels of Kurdish crude in June 2014 and hauled it across the Atlantic, found itself caught up in the dispute. The Baghdad government filed a lawsuit in Houston federal court to block the tanker from unloading its cargo, and a magistrate judge issued an arrest warrant and ordered U.S. marshals to seize the oil if the Kalavryta came into U.S. waters. The ship remained off the coast of Texas until the following January, retraced its journey back across the Atlantic and eventually discharged its cargo in Israel. While Kurdish oil has been delivered to ports in Europe and, occasionally, to the Middle East and Asia, the Neverland is the first to carry it across the Atlantic since the United Kalavryta. “It does feel like a bit of a test case,” Energy Aspects analyst Richard Mallinson said by phone. “Whilst Kurdish oil has found its home in the market, Baghdad hasn’t seemed to want to try and challenge Kurdish exports.”
  13. Canadian elite special forces sniper makes record-breaking kill shot in Iraq ROBERT FIFE OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF — The Globe and Mail Last updated Thursday, Jun. 22, 2017 9:50AM EDT A sniper with Canada’s elite special forces in Iraq has shattered the world record for the longest confirmed kill shot in military history at a staggering distance of 3,540 metres. Sources say a member of Joint Task Force 2 killed an Islamic State insurgent with a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise during an operation that took place within the last month in Iraq. It took under 10 seconds to hit the target. “The shot in question actually disrupted a Daesh [Islamic State] attack on Iraqi security forces,” said a military source, who stressed the operation fell within the strictures of the government’s advise and assist mission. “Instead of dropping a bomb that could potentially kill civilians in the area, it is a very precise application of force and because it was so far way, the bad guys didn’t have a clue what was happening.” The kill was independently verified by video camera and other data, The Globe and Mail has learned. “Hard data on this. It isn’t an opinion. It isn’t an approximation. There is a second location with eyes on with all the right equipment to capture exactly what the shot was,” another military source said. A military insider told The Globe: “This is an incredible feat. It is a world record that might never be equalled.” The world record was previously held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot a Taliban gunner with a 338 Lapua Magnum rifle from 2,475 metres away in 2009. Previously, Canadian Corporal Rob Furlong had set the world record in 2002 at 2,430 metres when he gunned down an Afghan insurgent carrying an RPK machine gun during Operation Anaconda. Weeks before, Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry briefly held the world’s best sniper record after he fatally shot an insurgent at 2,310 metres during the same operation. Both soldiers were members of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. JTF2 special forces are primarily tasked with counterterrorism, sniper operations and hostage rescue. Much of the information about this elite organization is classified and not commented on by the government. The unit’s snipers and members of Canadian Special Operations Regiment, who are carrying out the main task of training Kurdish forces, have been operating in tough conditions in Iraq. The Trudeau government pulled CF-18 fighter jets out of Iraq in 2016 but expanded the military mission, which will see the number of Canadian special forces trainers climb to 207 from 69 in an assist, train and advise mission. Canadian commandos are not supposed to be involved in direct combat, but are authorized to go up to the front lines on training missions with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and to paint targets for coalition air strikes. For operational security reasons, sources would not reveal the names of the elite Canadian sniper and his partner, nor the location where the action took place. A sniper and his observer partner are often sent to remote and dangerous locations to hunt down insurgents while having to carry heavy equipment. Once they have located the target, snipers follow the same methodical approach before each shot. Breathe in, out, in, out, find a natural pause and then squeeze the trigger. Canada has a reputation among Western military forces for the quality of its snipers, despite the small size of the Canadian Armed Forces compared to the United States and Britain. “Canada has a world-class sniper system. It is not just a sniper. They work in pairs. There is an observer,” a military source said. “This is a skill set that only a very few people have.” The skill of the JTF2 sniper in taking down an insurgent at 3,540 metres required math skills, great eyesight, precision of ammunition and firearms, and superb training. “It is at the distance where you have to account not just for the ballistics of the round, which change over time and distance, you have to adjust for wind, and the wind would be swirling,” said a source with expertise in training Canadian special forces. “You have to adjust for him firing from a higher location downward and as the round drops you have to account for that. And from that distance you actually have to account for the curvature of the Earth.” U.S. Sergeant Bryan Kremer has the longest confirmed sniper kill shot by a U.S. soldier. He killed an Iraqi insurgent with his Barrett M82A1 rifle at 2,300 metres in 2004. Editor's Note: The distance of the record-breaking shot is 3,540 metres, not 3,450 as reported in an earlier version of this story.
  14. CBS/AP June 16, 2017, 5:02 AM Russia says it may have killed ISIS leader in airstrike ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaks at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq. MOSCOW -- Russia said Friday that the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was believed to have been killed in an airstrike on a meeting of the group's leaders just outside its de facto capital in Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry said it was seeking to verify information that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group comman If confirmed, it would mark a major military success for Russia, which has conducted a military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015. The U.S.-led anti-ISIS military coalition said Friday that it could not immediately confirm the Russian claims. The ministry said the air raid on May 28 that targeted an ISIS meeting held on the southern outskirts of Raqqa in Syria also killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters. The ministry said the strike came as ISIS leaders gathered to discuss the group's withdrawal from Raqqa, its de facto capital. It said the military began planning the hit after getting word that the ISIS leaders were going to gather for a meeting to plan their exit to the south. The Russian military sent drones to monitor the area and then dispatched a group of Su-34 bombers and Su-35 fighter jets to hit the ISIS gathering. "According to the information that is being verified through various channels, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike," it said in a statement. The ministry added that it had warned the U.S. of the coming strike. The ministry said that among other militant leaders killed in the raid were ISIS leaders Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah. Al-Baghdadi became the head of ISIS almost by default as the terror group evolved from what had been al Qaeda in Iraq. There have been previous unconfirmed reports of his demise that proved incorrect.
  15. Jun 16, 3:57 AM EDT RUSSIA CLAIMS IT HAS KILLED IS LEADER AL-BAGHDADI BY VLADIMIR ISACHENKOVASSOCIATED PRESS MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia claimed Friday it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike on a meeting of IS leaders just outside the IS de facto capital in Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders. If confirmed, it would mark a major military success for Russia, which has conducted a military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015. The ministry said the air raid on May 28 that targeted an IS meeting held on the southern outskirts of Raqqa in Syria also killed about 30 mid-level militant leaders and about 300 other fighters. The ministry said the strike came as IS leaders gathered to discuss the group's withdrawal from Raqqa, the group's de facto capital. It said the military began planning the hit after getting word that the IS leaders were going to gather for a meeting to plan their exit to the south. The Russian military sent drones to monitor the area and then dispatched a group of Su-34 bombers and Su-35 fighter jets to hit the IS gathering. "According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike," it said in a statement. The ministry added that it had warned the U.S. of the coming strike. The ministry said that among other militant leaders killed in the raid were IS leaders Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah.