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Another Iraqi strongman is about to fall: Barzani’s days are officially numbered

Masoud Barzani, the strongman leader of Iraqi Kurds, has exhausted options for his regime. Like many strongmen in recent Iraqi history, he too will likely fall in a less than peaceful manner.

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With the exception of the moderate Ba’athist President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (1963, 1968-1979), every major strongman or strongly positioned Iraqi leader has met a gruesome end.

From Faisal II who was deposed and executed during the 14 July Revolution of 1958 to his republican successor Abd al-Karim Qasim who was killed during the pro-Ba’athist Ramadan revolution in 1963 and more recently, the violent execution of Saddam Hussein in 2006: being a powerful leader in Iraq, has in modern history, usually correlated with a cataclysmic demise.

Today’s government in Baghdad is surprisingly collective, some would say to a fault. Rather than a single strong leader, there are several key individuals each whom answer to various political bases. But this does not mean Iraq itself is free of strongman rule.

Ironically, the place in Iraq that western mainstream media often paints as the most ‘democratic’ part of Iraq, is in reality, the most dictatorial. This is the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq.

Ever since the fall of the short lived Soviet ally Republic of Mahabad, a Kurdish state established in post-war Iran in 1946, the Barzani family have been the leading rulers of Iraqi Kurds. Masoud Barzani, the current ruler of Iraqi Kurds whose formal decree expired in 2015, is the son of Mustafa Barzani who was the de-facto leader of Iraqi Kurds from 1946 up to to his death in 1979.

While Mustafa returned to Iraq from exile in the USSR in 1958, he again fled in 1974, this time to pre-revolutionary Iran, after rejecting Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr’s proposed Kurdish autonomy agreement. After Mustafa’s death, the current Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani took charge of his father’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

However, beginning in 1975, a more left-leaning Kurdish faction, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan became a leading force of Kurdish agitation in Iraq. One of the primary figures in the (PUK) was Jalal Talabani, who became Iraq’s President in 2005. His Presidency ended in 2015, while his death took place in early October of 2017.

In spite of the PUK’s increased success over the years, after the 1990 Gulf War, Masoud Barzani returned from Iran to Iraq. While Barzani had good relations with both Pahlavi Iran and early Islamic Revolutionary Iran, this arrangement was merely one of convenience. Barzani’s Kurdish militants sided with Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, in the hopes of weakening Saddam Hussein’s Presidency of Iraq.

During the 1990s, the Barzani clan strengthened its control over Kurdish regions of northern Iraq. It was at this time that Kurdish regions in northern Iraq gained considerable autonomy even during the last full decade of Saddam Hussein’s Presidency in Baghdad. Since the illegal US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, an autonomous Kurdish region was formally established according to Iraq’s 2005 constitution, a document largely written by the US with input from mostly Shi’a Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds, including the PUK’s Jalal Talabani.

While most figures in post-2003 Baghdad, de-facto accepted the primacy of the Barzani clan in post-Ba’athist Iraqi politics (in respect of Kurdish regions), many have grown increasingly unhappy with Barzani’s autocratic rule which PUK figures have criticised as heavy-handed and dictatorial, dating back to the 1970s.

With both Baghdad and Kurdish spokesmen calling for de-escalation after Iraq’s bloodless re-establishment of authority in Kurdish occupied Kirkuk, the one sore point in the situation is the figure of Barzani himself.

It was Barzani’s decision not to allow Kirkuk to be returned to Iraqi authorities after ISIS was largely defeated in northern Iraq. This is crucial as Kirkuk has never been part of any legally defined Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq.

Furthermore, in holding a secession referendum before the penultimate defeat of ISIS and doing so with the inclusion of Kirkuk on a map of a would-be Kurdish state, Barzani showed his dictatorial tendencies and Iraq felt both angered and betrayed.

Even under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurds enjoyed levels of autonomy that are globally unique among a self-defined nationalistic minority. This is especially unique when one considered that the origin of Kurds is that of nomads. Nowhere for example, are the Romani people (often called Gypsies) given such specific autonomy, let alone in an oil rich region.

Throughout all of this, Iraq has acted fully within the framework of national and international law. What’s more is that Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has issued multiple calls for calm, stating that Iraqi troops and volunteer Popular Mobilisation Forces, have no desire to fire on Kurdish Pershmerga militias. Al-Abadi even stated that he hoped Peshmerga would cooperate in helping Iraq to restore its legal authority in northern regions.

While the Battle of Kirkuk has revealed a unity among Iraqis that had not been seen in decades, with Sunni and Shi’a Arabs as well as Sunni Turkomen rallying behind the Iraqi flag, the same battle has exposed disunity among Kurdish groups. In Barzani’s capital of Erbil, fingers are being pointed internally, while Kurds have adopted the standard US-Israeli propaganda line which blames Iran for any and all misery which befalls Iraq.

Slandering Shi’a Iraqi regulars as well as Shi’a Popular Mobilisation Forces as ‘Iranian’ is also a tactic that was used by ISIS in Iraq. Furthermore, in Syria, ISIS, al-Qaeda and the FSA referred to all of their secular, Shi’a, Druze and Christian opponents as “Iranians”.

I have previously written that the crisis in Iraq, caused by overzealous Kurdish leaders, Barzani in particular, has been an opening salvo in a US-Israeli proxy war against Iran. Because the US in particular, is well aware that a war on Iran in Iran would be a suicide mission, Washington has merely pivoted from a strategy of using Takfiri jihadists to attempt and undermine Iran’s position in Iraq and Syria, to one where the US is allying with Kurds to do so.

First video of liberated Kirkuk

In respect of Syria, there is a very real possibility that the US will continue to illegally occupy Syria and will do so while working with local Kurds, in an attempt to achieve the next best thing (from the warped perspective of Washington and Tel Aviv) to regime change: the Balkanisation of Syria.

In Iraq, something similar has been attempted in respect of Israel’s public backing of Kurdish secession and Tel Aviv’s strong support for the Barzani regime. However, in both cases, the biggest stumbling bloc to this policy aimed and harming Arab territorial unity and Iran’s alliances in the Arab world, ironically comes from grudging NATO member Turkey.

Turkey has vowed to oppose any would-be Kurdish state wherever it may arise, including both Iraq and Syria. With both Turkey, Iran and Iraq vowing to physically and economically cut off a Kurdish statelet in Iraq, something that would amount to little more than a ‘Barzanistan’ having no source of revenue or even basic supplies, the US would ostensibly need to fight its technical Iraqi ally, its fledgling ally that is Turkey, as well as Iran, in order to establish a Kurdish state in Iraq. This, even by wily American standards, is a ‘mission impossible’.

While desperately trying to foment Kurdish unity in order to disrupt the burgeoning alliance between Iraq, Iran and Syria, with the added component of a separate alliance in the works between Iran, Turkey and Iraq, the United States has ultimately only strengthened both alliances many fold.

When Takfiri terrorists are decisively defeated in Syria, it is still not beyond the realm of the possible, that Damascus and Ankara too could put aside their enmity, in order to contain nationalistic Kurds and in doing so, fusing each of the aforementioned alliances. Here, the US could therefore find itself confronted by two insurmountable roadblocks in both Iraq and Syria.

In spite of public statements from the US calling for de-escalation between ‘two allies’, the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regime in northern Iraq, I personally have little doubt that actors in the US military, CIA and also of course, actors in Israel, have encouraged an intransigent attitude among the Barzani regime. However, in failing to realise the logistical difficulties facing the US and Israel in bolstering such a position, Barzani has undermined his own interests and instead destroyed the legitimacy of his own regime, even among many of his followers.

While the US has been tactful in calling for calm, Barzani took the bait without realising that there may be no light at the end of the tunnel. This is not the first time a leader in Iraq, took the Americans on their word without exploring the more nuanced realities on the ground. In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein was strongly supported by the US during his war on Iran. Furthermore, it later emerged that April Gillespie, a diplomat in  the administration of George H.W. Bush, told Saddam that the US would not militarily oppose Iraq’s intervention in Kuwait. The promise was just one of many US broken promises in respect of Iraq.

In this sense, Barzani found himself in a position of mistaking what many assume to be covert signs of US support, for a genuine promise of more meaningful action in favour of the Kurds. With Barzani’s star now in tatters, in spite of what his powerful propaganda machine tells the world, Barzani may be yet another strongman in Iraq to fall in what could be deeply grim circumstances. If Barzani has any ounce of self-preservation, he ought to simply resign, knowing that prolonging his leadership cannot have a happy ending at this point in time.

In this sense, Barzani, in taking American statements at face value, failed to understand something about American policies in the Middle East that was once articulated by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser:

“The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something”.

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Erdogan accepts Syria DMZ off-ramp, in deal with Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 111.

Alex Christoforou

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The deal struck in Sochi averts a large scale Syria’s offensive on Idlib, as Turkey gives it guarantee to monitor what will effectively become a demilitarized zone.

According to the agreement, troops from Russia and Turkey will enforce a new demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Idlib, from which ISIS/Al Qaeda rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the 15 to 20 km-wide zone would be established by October 15th. The DMZ would require a complete “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib, including the rebranded Al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Putin also noted that heavy weapons would be withdrawn from the DMZ by all opposition forces by October 10th, which is a move supported by the Syrian government.

The Russian President described the agreement as a “serious result” further saying that “Russia and Turkey have confirmed their determination to counter terrorism in Syria in all its forms”.

Erdogan said both his country and Russia would carry out coordinated patrols in the demilitarized zone:

“We decided on the establishment of a region that is cleaned of weapons between the areas which are under the control of the opposition and the regime.”

“In return, we will ensure that radical groups, which we will designate together with Russia, won’t be active in the relevant area.”

According to Al Jazeera Iran’s foreign minister has hailed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to avert an assault on the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province, as an example of “responsible diplomacy”.

An agreement to halt plans for an offensive on the last major rebel-held stronghold was announced in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday after a meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On his Twitter account, Zarif wrote: “Intensive responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks-pursued in my visits to Ankara & Damascus, followed by the Iran-Russia-Turkey Summit in Tehran and the meeting (in) Sochi-is succeeding to avert war in #Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror. Diplomacy works.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the agreement reached in Sochi, which for now avoids full scale conflict in Idlib, Syria. Who won, who lost, and which interests were met with the DMZ agreement?

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Via Xinhuanet

An anticipated Syrian military offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib is on hold after Turkey and Russia reached a deal following Ankara’s guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, experts said.

The deal was reached Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, as the two sides agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold.

This agreement brings Turkey to a position of giving a guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, the experts said.

“Moscow is convinced that it would not be able to handle the burden of a humanitarian tragedy in case of a military offensive in Idlib,” said Metin Gurcan, a Turkish security analyst with the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabanci University.

Russia has also secured its airbases in northern Syria, including its airbase in Hmeymim as a guarantee by Turkey under the Sochi agreement, he said.

Gurcan recalled a trilateral summit of Turkey, Iran and Russia held in Iranian capital Tehran early September, which ended without agreement as Erdogan’s call for a ceasefire in Idlib was rejected by Moscow and Tehran.

Erdogan’s proposal for a ceasefire by all parties in Idlib was rejected by Putin on the grounds that those groups were not represented at the table there, he said.

“Now Turkey has given a guarantee on behalf of radical groups which Putin earlier said that ceasefire cannot be discussed because they were not represented at Tehran meeting,” Gurcan said.

Now everyone is curious how Turkey has given guarantee to Moscow and how will those radical groups accept a proposal for demilitarization by surrendering heavy weapons and withdrawing from the demilitarized zone, Gurcan noted.

“Ankara has given this promise relying on its military power on the ground and on its capacity to convince armed opposition groups,” he said.

Turkish army has reinforced its presence in Idlib in the past few months, and Turkey has 12 military outposts with 1,200-1,300 troops on the border line of the province separating the rebel stronghold from the pro-Iran militia-controlled South of Aleppo and the government-controlled southeast, Gurcan said.

Rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, in the region are gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the “National Front for Liberation.”

Putin and Erdogan agreed on Monday in Sochi to create a 15-20 km buffer zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by Oct. 15.

The agreement entails the “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib as well as “heavy weaponry from this zone,” Putin said at the joint press conference after signing the deal with Erdogan.

By the end of the year, transportation routes between the key port of Latakia and Aleppo as well as the city of Hama must be restored, Putin added.

The Russian leader also said all heavy weapons had to be withdrawn from the zone by Oct. 10, according to Erdogan’s proposal.

Ankara has been warning against any military offensive by Russia-backed Syrian regime forces in Idlib, warning that it would lead to a humanitarian crisis and refugee influx to the Turkish border.

Turkey and Russia, along with Iran, are guarantors of the Astana deal which declared ceasefire in four de-escalation zones in Syria, including Idlib.

Turkey will deploy more troops in Idlib province after the Sochi deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

“We will need extra troop reinforcements. Turkey and Russia will patrol on the border areas. Civilians and moderate (opposition) will stay here,” Cavusoglu said.

Another outcome of the Sochi deal is that Turkey and Russia prevented a possible attack by the United States in Idlib, Naim Baburoglu from Aydin University said.

He recalled that the U.S. was giving signals that it wanted to intervene in the situation in Idlib, if Syrian government troops launch an assault on the rebel stronghold.

Washington recently threatened to take swift and decisive actions against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib.

“This agreement showed that the U.S. has room for maneuver only in the east of Euphrates and Manbij region,” Baburoglu said.

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Pat Buchanan: “The Late Hit” On Judge Kavanaugh

Wha exactly is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Upon the memory and truthfulness of Christine Blasey Ford hangs the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his reputation and possibly his career on the nation’s second-highest court.

And much more. If Kavanaugh is voted down or forced to withdraw, the Republican Party and conservative movement could lose their last best hope for recapturing the high court for constitutionalism.

No new nominee could be vetted and approved in six weeks. And the November election could bring in a Democratic Senate, an insuperable obstacle to the elevation of a new strict constructionist like Kavanaugh.

The stakes are thus historic and huge.

And what is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

When she was 15 in the summer of ’82, she went to a beer party with four boys in Montgomery County, Maryland, in a home where the parents were away.

She says she was dragged into a bedroom by Brett Kavanaugh, a 17-year-old at Georgetown Prep, who jumped her, groped her, tried to tear off her clothes and cupped her mouth with his hand to stop her screams.

Only when Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, laughing “maniacally,” piled on and they all tumbled off the bed, did she escape and lock herself in a bathroom as the “stumbling drunks” went downstairs. She fled the house and told no one of the alleged rape attempt.

Not until 30 years later in 2012 did Ford, now a clinical psychologist in California, relate, in a couples therapy session with her husband, what happened. She says she named Kavanaugh as her assailant, but the therapist’s notes of the session make no mention of Kavanaugh.

During the assault, says Ford, she was traumatized. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.”

Here the story grows vague. She does not remember who drove her to the party. She does not say how much she drank. She does not remember whose house it was. She does not recall who, if anyone, drove her home. She does not recall what day it was.

She did not tell her parents, Ford says, as she did not want them to know she had been drinking. She did not tell any friend or family member of this traumatic event that has so adversely affected her life.

Said Kavanaugh in response, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Mark Judge says it never happened.

Given the seriousness of the charges, Ford must be heard out. But she also needs to be cross-examined and have her story and character probed as Kavanaugh’s has been by FBI investigators as an attorney for the Ken Starr impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton, a White House aide to George Bush, a U.S. appellate judge and a Supreme Court nominee.

During the many investigations of Kavanaugh’s background, nothing was unearthed to suggest something like this was in character.

Some 65 women who grew up in the Chevy Chase and Bethesda area and knew Kavanaugh in his high school days have come out and spoken highly of his treatment of girls and women.

Moreover, the way in which all of this arose, at five minutes to midnight in the long confirmation process, suggests that this is political hardball, if not dirt ball.

When Ford, a Democrat, sent a letter detailing her accusations against Kavanaugh to her California congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, Ford insisted that her name not be revealed as the accuser.

She seemingly sought to damage or destroy the judge’s career behind a cloak of anonymity. Eshoo sent the letter on to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who held it for two months.

Excising Ford’s name, Feinstein then sent it to the FBI, who sent it to the White House, who sent it on to the Senate to be included in the background material on the judge.

Thus, Ford’s explosive charge, along with her name, did not surface until this weekend.

What is being done here stinks. It is a transparently late hit, a kill shot to assassinate a nominee who, before the weekend, was all but certain to be confirmed and whose elevation to the Supreme Court is a result of victories in free elections by President Trump and the Republican Party.

Palpable here is the desperation of the left to derail Kavanaugh, lest his elevation to the high court imperil their agenda and the social revolution that the Warren Court and its progeny have been able to impose upon the nation.

If Kavanaugh is elevated, the judicial dictatorship of decades past, going back to the salad days of Earl Warren, William Brennan, Hugo Black and “Wild Bill” Douglas, will have reached its end. A new era will have begun.

That is what is at stake.

The Republican Senate should continue with its calendar to confirm Kavanaugh before Oct. 1, while giving Ford some way to be heard, and then Kavanaugh the right to refute. Then let the senators decide.

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