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Iraq’s new war: The Battle of Kirkuk intensifies as Iraqi troops make new gains

Iraqi forces continue to push further into Kirkuk in spite of Kurdish opposition.

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According to local reports, Iraqi troops and Iraq’s volunteer Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) have been engaged in fierce clashes with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the northern city of Kirkuk. Iraqi troops have been driving deep into Kirkuk for just over a week, where they have successfully re-established control over key parts of the city.

Kirkuk has been largely controlled and occupied by Kurdish forces since 2014 as part of the ongoing northern Iraqi battle against ISIS terrorists. However, in March of 2017, the Kurds provocatively raised their flag over Kirkuk’s city hall, as well as nearby oil fields. In another provocative move, Kirkuk was included in the unapproved 25 September secession referendum, in spite of Kirkuk never being part of northern Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the troop movements into Kirkuk as a security operation to re-assert Iraq’s legal sovereignty over a key oil rich city. He stated that the move is simply about securing Kirkuk and went out of his way to say that Iraqi troops and PMFs have been ordered not to engage in clashes with Kurdish Peshmerga, but should instead try and secure their cooperation.

However, things have become heated over the last 24 hours. Iraqi social media uses have posted scenes of Peshmerga retreating as Iraqi forces and PMFs advance.

Meanwhile, official Iraqi state media has played down the extent of the clashes, while Kurdish outlets have already begun referring to the movement of Iraqi troops into Kirkuk o a “war”. The powerful Kurdish propaganda machine is firmly in anti-Iraqi overdrive.

In spite of this, the biggest story is that which is not being reported from the ground. Iraq’s advance to re-claim Kirkuk has seen local Sunni Arabs rally to a common cause with Shi’a volunteer units who are bolstering the regular Iraqi Army (which itself is majority Shi’a). Furthermore, many local Turkomen who are ardently opposed to Kurdish secession in northern Iraq, have also largely rallied behind the Iraqi flag.

In an Iraq where even the battle against ISIS took on an internal sectarian character, the unity behind a common Iraqi flag among Sunni and Shi’a Arabs as well as Turkomen, is quite remarkable. It is an undeniably positive development in an otherwise dangerous situation.

While for the moment, the operation is being conducted purely by Iraqis, a report that there are PKK fighters in Kurdish regions of northern Iraq, will not go unnoticed in Turkey. While the Syrian Kurd YPG and Iranian Kurd PJAK, are known to have strong ties to the Turkish Kurd PKK, Iraq’s Peshmerga are traditionally unfriendly to the PKK, which is proscribed as a terrorist group both in Turkey and internationally.

However, as Kurds in northern Iraq continue to provoke both the majority of Arab Iraqis and local Iraqi Turkomen, many have feared that Iraq’s Kurds could form alliances with rival Kurdish groups from other states. While the Kurdish regime in northern Iraq denies this charge, there is mounting evidence that a Peshmerga-PKK alliance is emerging.

Iraq has been conducting joint drills with both Turkey and Iran ever since the illegal Kurdish secession referendum was held. Each country has vowed not to allow the establishment of a Kurdish statelet in the region, with Turkey being the most outspoken about resisting such a development.

From the perspective of a wider regional and even global conflict, two things are immediately clear.

1. In spite of Iraq’s more than generous overtures aimed at de-escalating the situation, continued Kurdish aggression aimed at Baghdad, is symptomatic either of Kurds being prideful to the point of foolishness or more likely, they have some guarantee of protection/forthcoming aid from a non-bordering power. As US troops maintain many bases in Iraq, this ‘foreign’ aid could actually be delivered quite easily. However, if the US came out in favour of Kurdish secessionists or worse yet, aided the Kurds against Iraqi troops in Kirkuk, what little confidence Baghdad has in the US would ultimately be shattered.

Iraqi Kurds’ unwillingness to negotiate with Baghdad, indicates they are banking on foreign support

2. Following on from the previous point, it is becoming equally clear that just as the sectarian wars in Iraq were proxy battles between pro-Iranian Shi’a volunteers and Iraq’s Shi’a dominated army versus Takfiri terrorist groups like ISIS who are funded by Washington’s Gulfi Arab allies, so too would an Iraq versus Kurdish war, constitute an American attempt at dragging Iran into a new conflict on Iraqi soil.

While it is still conventional wisdom that the US is aware that an invasion of Iran would be a suicide mission for Washington, the US has for years, provoked Iran on Iraqi soil. A new Kurdish conflict would simply be a new phase of an ongoing phenomenon.

The proxy-war against Iran is under way in Iraq and has just entered a new phase

While Iran has every right to aid Iraq, especially in light of  the recent singing of a military and security pact with Baghdad, the country that ought to take the lead in such a battle is Turkey.

Turkey has already positioned itself on the Iraqi border, with President Erdogan saying in no uncertain terms that military action against Kurdish secessionists could begin at any moment. Because Ankara and Baghdad have been cooperating in respect of Kurdish provocations, it is likely that Turkish intervention would be welcomed by Iraq, given the severity of the circumstances.

A Turkish intervention has several distinct advantages over an Iranian one. The United States has its sights set on Iran, as Donald Trump make perfectly clear in his recent speech wherein he announced the US will de-certify the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal). Anything, that Iran does in Iraq could trigger the US to attempt a proxy war inside Iran’s borders, possibly one which could see the arming of Iranian Kurdish terrorists with US supplies coming from Iraq. This would be made all the more easy for the US, if Iraq’s Kurdish regions which border Iran, were fully occupied by US troops. This is certainly a headache that Iran does not need.

By contrast, Turkey is a NATO member, albeit one engaged in increasingly tense disputes with the United States. Still, Turkey is not America and Israel’s primary boogie-man, that remains Iran. Because the US is struggling to redefine its narrative on Turkey, as Ankara pivots its policy to a more Eurasian and less western position, Ankara is well placed to come to Iraq’s aid should such a thing be requested.

Furthermore, while the US would almost certainly not hesitate to fire on Iranian troops or volunteers in Iraq (or anywhere else for that matter), it would be very difficult for US troops to engage NATO Turkey’s troops on the battlefield. Such a thing could spell the beginning of the end of NATO as we know it.

Of course, any foreign intervention would only be necessary if Iraq felt that this was the case. With reports just coming in of Iraq re-establishing control over Kirkuk’s main airbase  in addition to re-establishing control over other vital positions in the region, the idea of foreign intervention may become redundant. Iraq’s troops may be desperate for peace, but they are equally battle hardened.

As one look at Iraqi social media will indicate, Iraq is not about to kowtow to pro-Israel Kurds after years of struggling against Takrifi terrorism. If this remains the case, the US will have found itself clandestinely on the side of yet another losing battle in the Middle East.

UPDATE I: Iraqi forces are no in control of the North Oil Company of Kirkuk.

UPDATE II: Iraqi forces have now retaken control of Kirkuk’s main airport.

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EU leaders dictate Brexit terms to Theresa May (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 115.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how EU leaders have agreed on a plan to delay the the Article 50 process which effectively postpones Brexit beyond the 29 March deadline.

The UK will now be offered a delay until the 22nd of May, only if MPs approve Theresa May’s withdrawal deal next week. If MPs do not approve May’s negotiated deal, then the EU will support a short delay until the 12th of April, allowing the UK extra time to get the deal passed or to “indicate a way forward”.

UK PM Theresa May said there was now a “clear choice” facing MPs, who could vote for a third time on her deal next week.

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Theresa May outlines four Brexit options, via Politico

In a letter to MPs, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May set out the four options she believes the country has in light of Thursday’s decision by EU leaders to extend the Brexit deadline beyond next Friday.

The U.K. is faced with a four-way choice, May wrote late Friday.

The government could revoke Article 50 — which May called a betrayal of the Brexit vote; leave without a deal on April 12; pass her deal in a vote next week; or, “if it appears that there is not sufficient support” for a vote on her deal in parliament next week or if it is rejected for a third time, she could ask for an extension beyond April 12.

But this would require for the U.K. taking part in European elections in May, which the prime minister said “would be wrong.”

May wrote that she’s hoping for the deal to pass, allowing the U.K. to leave the EU “in an orderly way,” adding “I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action.”

“I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision,” she wrote.

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US media suffers panic attack after Mueller fails to deliver on much-anticipated Trump indictment

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

RT

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Via RT


Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment.

The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Showing true integrity, journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. They are, after all, true professionals.

“How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on CNN’s ‘Hardball’.

Dilanian tried to comfort the CNN host with some of his signature NBC punditry.

“My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused.

Actually, there were several Serious Journalists who used their unsurpassed analytical abilities to conjure up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious.

Revered news organs were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings.

“What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s tragic announcement.

Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

But perhaps the most sobering reactions to the no-indictment news came from those who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Mueller’s investigation, aimed at uncovering a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, ended without digging up a single case of “collusion.”

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison.

“You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery.

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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Canadian Lawmaker Accuses Trudeau Of Being A “Fake Feminist” (Video)

Rempel segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career

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Via Zerohedge

Canada’s feminist-in-chief Justin Trudeau wants to support and empower women…but his support stops at the point where said women start creating problems for his political agenda.

That was the criticism levied against the prime minister on Friday by a conservative lawmaker, who took the PM to task for “muzzling strong, principled women” during a debate in the House of Commons.

“He asked for strong women, and this is what they look like!” said conservative MP Michelle Rempel, referring to the former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has accused Trudeau and his cronies of pushing her out of the cabinet after she refused to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.

She then accused Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”.

“That’s not what a feminist looks like…Every day that he refuses to allow the attorney general to testify and tell her story is another day he’s a fake feminist!”

Trudeau was so taken aback by Rempel’s tirade, that he apparently forgot which language he should respond in.

But Rempel wasn’t finished. She then segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career. This from a man who once objected to the continued use of the word “mankind” (suggesting we use “peoplekind” instead).

The conservative opposition then tried to summon Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Commons for another hearing (during her last appearance, she shared her account of how the PM and employees in the PM’s office and privy council barraged her with demands that she quash the government’s pursuit of SNC-Lavalin over charges that the firm bribed Libyan government officials). Wilson-Raybould left the Trudeau cabinet after she was abruptly moved to a different ministerial post – a move that was widely seen as a demotion.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he put in a good word on the firm’s behalf with Wilson-Raybould, but insists that he always maintained the final decision on the case was hers and hers alone.

Fortunately for Canadians who agree with Rempel, it’s very possible that Trudeau – who has so far resisted calls to resign – won’t be in power much longer, as the scandal has cost Trudeau’s liberals the lead in the polls for the October election.

 

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