Obama to Outline Programs to Counter Lure of Extremist Groups Like ISIS JULI HIRSCHFLD DAVIS F. 18, 2015 WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday will outline his administration’s efforts to counter what he calls “violent extremism” in a speech to law enforcement, community and religious leaders gathered to discuss how to prevent groups like the Islamic State from recruiting disaffected young people to their ranks.
The sessions on Wednesday — part of a three day meeting here — will focus on government backed community pilot programs in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Los Angeles and Boston in which law enforcement and civic and religious leaders have worked together to counter extremist influences.
“We know from experience that the best way to protect people, especially young people, from falling into the grip of violent extremists is the support of their family, friends, teachers and faith leaders,” Mr. Obama wrote in an opinion piece published in Wednesday’s editions of The Los Angeles Times.
“Governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change, Mr. Obama wrote in his piece, timed to appear on the first full day of the conference on countering violent extremism. On Thursday, leaders from more than 60 nations will gather at the State Department to discuss the challenge. The White House said that domestic anti extremism programs were a vital nonmilitary way to counter extremism of all kinds, a task that has taken on greater urgency after the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.
But civil liberties groups have grave concerns about such programs, arguing that they could morph into fear mongering secret surveillance efforts that trample on civil rights and privacy, and that the administration could be giving tacit approval to foreign governments that crack down on their citizens in the name of countering terrorism.
“The concern is that they’re going to create a permanent state of suspicion and fear based reporting, asking communities all over the United States to report on suspicious behavior without defining what that really means,” said Naureen Shah, the director of the Security and Human Rights Program at Amnesty International USA.
“The fear is that you will have situations where people’s political beliefs are used to brand them as suspicious in a kind of ‘1984’ approach,” she added.
Mr. Obama’s top advisers spoke privately with civil liberties groups before the meeting and indicated that the administration was open to addressing those concerns, Ms. Shah said. Still, the conference agenda, which includes 13 sessions on Wednesday alone, did not offer one on civil liberties or privacy concerns.
The White House said the programs it was highlighting were meant to be run by the communities themselves and not the federal government.
Although the nation’s top federal law enforcement agencies will be involved, officials said, the program is an opportunity for communities to devise their own strategies.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson opened the summit on Wednesday morning noting that terrorist organizations have made dramatic progress over the last decade in their ability to communicate via technology.
“We see very effective and slick use of the Internet by terrorist organizations — very effective, slick use of social media,” Mr. Johnson said. “They have the ability to reach into our communities and attempt to recruit and inspire individuals who may turn toward violence, right here in the homeland.”
He also addressed the difficulties that some American Muslims feel, arguing that Americans have to “develop a counter narrative” to rebut the message trumpeted by extremist groups.
“We in the administration and the government should give voice to the plight of Muslims living in this country and the discrimination that they face,” Mr. Johnson said.
The White House has been careful to describe the meeting in generic terms, avoiding the phrases “Islamic extremism” or “Muslim extremism” and arguing that the sessions are not focused on any one group.
Some Muslim leaders were invited to the summit but declined to attend, including Fahd Ahmed, the acting director of the DRUM South Asian Organizing Center, an immigrant community group in Queens, N.Y. The government’s approach to countering violent extremism “continues to see Muslim communities only through the lens of security, which inherently implies suspicion,” he said in an interview, calling the programs “discriminatory.”
“We know it is a flawed model,” said Mr. Ahmed, who added that he could not “in good conscience” attend the Washington conference. 2/18/2015 Obama to Outline Programs to Counter Lure of Extremist Groups Like ISIS …
Kurds’ Oil Deals With Turkey Raise Fears of Fissures in Iraq
By Tim Arango and Clifford Krauss
ISTANBUL — The sharp, dry mountains that run between Turkey and Iraq have long marked a front line in the battle between the TurkishgovernmentandKurdishseparatists where cross-border attacks took many lives on both sides. Though a rapprochement has calmed the border, the United States fears stability may now be in even greater danger. The problem is not war — but commerce. Iraqi Kurds are selling oil and natural gas directly to Turkey, infuriating Washington and the central government in Baghdad, which fear that oil independence could lead Kurds to declare a broad independence and the fracturing of the nation. Even as sectarian killing is again spiking across Iraq, and the Syrian civil war destabilizes the region, American officials in Baghdad say the flow of oil to Turkey may be the greatest potential risk to Iraq’s cohesion.
But a year-and-a-half-long diplomatic drive by the United States to stop the flow has so far failed, reflecting Washington’s diminished influence in the region, even with its two longtime allies. Not only will trucks continue to travel daily from the Kurdish region to two Turkish cities on the Mediterranean coast, and not only will the Kurds continue to deliver oil via a pipeline to Turkey, but the parties plan to build a second pipeline, whose details have been kept secret.
“The Kurdistan deal with Turkey is a huge violation against the Iraqi Constitution because they didn’t make the deal with the coordination of the central government,” said Ali Dhari, the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s oil and gas committee. “This means the stealing of the Iraqi wealth, and we will not allow it.”
The oil accords with Turkey, potentially worth billions of dollars, are part of a broader effort by Iraqi Kurds in recent years to cut their own energy deals — including exploration agreements with foreign companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Gazprom — that sidelined the central government. The Kurds, and the Turks, say they will pay Baghdad its fair share. But officials in the capital have long claimed such arrangements are illegal.
The controversy is in part the unfinished business of the American occupation of Iraq. The failure of the Iraqi government to pass a national oil law, one of the benchmarks set by President George W. Bush when he announced the United States troop “surge” in 2007, has left Baghdad and Erbil, the Kurdish capital, in a perpetual feud over how to divide profits and who has the authority to make agreements with international oil companies.
Qasim Mishkhati, a Kurdish member of Parliament’s oil and gas committee, insisted that the wealth from the deals would be shared with the rest of Iraq, and that it was the responsibility of the regional government in the north to find international markets for its oil resources. “Kurdistan is working to increase the national income so that all Iraqis can enjoy better services and more wealth,” he said.
Although the mechanism for such payments has not been worked out, the Turks and the Kurds have indicated that they would adhere to the existing proportions for the division of national revenue, meaning Baghdad would receive 83 percent of the net profit and the Kurds would keep 17 percent.
But the alarm in Baghdad and Washington has grown with these oil deals, which appear to be part of a slow, long-term strategy by the Iraqi Kurds to pursue a path of increasing autonomy that experts say has one endgame: an independent Kurdish state.
Tens of millions of Kurds live in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, and they have long held ambitions for independence that for decades were thwarted. Now, amid the turmoil of the Middle East, Kurdish leaders are taking decisive steps to advance that dream, not just in Iraq, but also in Syria, where Kurdish factions recently declared an autonomous administration in the northeast.
The Iraqi Kurds run their own autonomous and relatively prosperous region in northern Iraq, control their own ports of entry, field their own army and intelligence service and conduct their own foreign policy. The Kurdish region also has separate visa rules, so an American, for instance, might wait weeks or months to secure a visa to Baghdad, but could buy one at the airport in Erbil. The region has also served as a safe haven for Sunni officials looking to escape the reach of the Shiite-led government, including former Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, accused in 2011 of terrorism.
But the oil deals also highlight the drastic reshaping of regional alliances in the past few years. In 2003 Turkey, worried that the American invasion of Iraq would promote Kurdish independence, forbade American troops to use its territory to enter Iraq.
But now Turkey is in the process of making peace with its own Kurds, who have waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state with bases in Iraq. In a region where Turkey has few allies these days, the Iraqi Kurds have become close partners.
For Turkey, though, the energy deals with Iraqi Kurdistan, which include oil and natural gas, underscore a persistent national challenge to secure reliable supplies of energy for its economy. Turkey boasts the Middle East’s largest economy but has few domestic energy sources. It has historically relied on two countries for the bulk of its energy — Russia and Iran — and a national priority for Turkey has been to diversify its sources of oil and gas.
The only place in the world where demand for energy is growing faster than Turkey is in China, and the only people who pay more for gasoline at the pump than Turks are Norwegians. In Turkey it can cost more than $120 to fill the tank of a compact car because of high taxes the government has levied in an effort to keep demand down
While Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish regional government have slowly expanded their relationship in the past few years, they have recently agreed to something ambitious and broader: a multibillion-dollar pact that includes the building of the second pipeline, according to press reports and oil executives involved in the negotiations.
That deal comes as Turkish and Iraqi government officials have recently sought to mend ties that had soured in recent years, an effort that included a visit to Baghdad on Sunday by Turkey’s energy minister, who indicated Turkey would try to win Baghdad’s support for the deals with the Kurds. Turkey had supported the Sunni Muslim opposition in Iraq, angering the Shiite leadership that dominates the government in Baghdad.
“There has been a rapprochement between Ankara and Baghdad, but what I see in the energy policy of Turkey relating to Kurdistan still seems to be a fly in the ointment for the Ministry of Oil in Baghdad,” said Badr H. Jafar, the chairman of the Pearl Petroleum consortium, the largest private oil and gas investor in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The recent steps taken to improve the relationship between Turkey and Iraq — a reconciliation pushed by the Americans — now seem to be the best bet, analysts said, to achieve an agreement on an elusive national oil law to divide the country’s vast petroleum profits.
The Iraqi Kurdish leadership “is positioning itself for greater autonomy in negotiations with Baghdad, but as relations between Ankara and Baghdad continue to warm it is inconceivable that the K.R.G. will be allowed to export to Turkey without Baghdad’s consent,” said David L. Goldwyn, the State Department’s coordinator for international energy affairs during the first term of the Obama administration, referring to the initials for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq.
Turkey, though, has said it will ensure that the government in Baghdad will be paid for any oil it imports from Kurdistan in accordance with Iraq’s revenue-sharing arrangement.
“If done correctly, these deals have the potential to generate huge revenues for Iraq, distributed by the Iraqi government in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution and for the ultimate benefit of the Iraqi people, including of course, the Kurdish region,” Mr. Jafar said.