Iraq Theater

Podcast: Iraq, Palestine, escalation and errata

In Episode 212 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the latest escalation in the Middle East—and continues to note discrepancies in the reportage. US air-strikes on Iraq are said to have targeted the self-declared Islamic Resistance in Iraq, and its constituent militias such as Kataib Hezbollah. But some reports indicate the actual target has often been the Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary network integrated into Iraq's official security services. Meanwhile, insufficiently noted media accounts report "no evidence" to back up Israeli claims of Hamas co-optation of UNWRA, which has led to a devastating cut-off of funds to the UN agency by the Western powers.

More US troops to Iraq?

An Iraqi military official on Jan. 15 denied reports of a deployment of more US troops to the country, asserting that Baghdad does not need foreign forces. CBS News reported the previous day that 1,500 troops from the New Jersey National Guard are being sent to Iraq and Syria to join the US-led coalition established to fight ISIS. This would constitute the largest reserve deployment out of New Jersey since 2008. CBS cited the state's Gov. Phil Murphy as saying the troops were being mobilized for Operation Inherent Resolve. But the report was refuted by Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, the head of Iraq's Security Media Cell—a body that officially cooperates with the US-led coalition to counter online disinformation.

Oil, ethnicity at issue in Kirkuk land dispute

Residents of a disputed neighborhood in Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk staged a sit-in Dec. 15 to protest eviction orders and criminal charges filed against them by a state-owned oil company. Hundreds of Kurdish families who were pushed out of Kirkuk during Saddam Hussein's Arabization campaign returned to the city following the fall of his regime in 2003. With their former homes now occupied by Arab families, many took up residence in a residential complex in Arafa neighborhood, previously inhabited by functionaries of Saddam's Baath party. Now, the North Oil Company is claiming ownership of the residential complex, and ordering the Kurdish families to vacate. Arrest orders have been issued against residents who have refused to comply. (Rudaw)

Gaza: flashpoint for regional war? (redux)

The Iraqi government condemned air-strikes by the US military on its territory as "hostile acts" after the Pentagon said it hit sites used by Iran-backed forces. The strikes killed one member of the Iraqi security forces and wounded 18 people, including civilians, Baghdad said Dec. 26, calling the raids an "unacceptable attack on Iraqi sovereignty." Washington said the strikes targeted three sites used by Kataib Hezbollah, part of the network of Shi'ite militias in Iraq, in retaliation for a drone attack the day before on Erbil airbase that wounded three US service members, one of them critically,. (Al Jazeera)

'ISIS-linked' families repatriated to Iraq from Syria

Iraq has taken in 192 families from Syria's al-Hol camp that houses persons accused of having links to the Islamic State (ISIS), an Iraqi member of parliament told the Kurdish Rudaw news agency on Nov. 12. A total of 780 individuals were returned to Iraq and will be placed in al-Jadaa Center for Community Rehabilitation in Nineveh province, acording to the report. The MP said the families will stay in al-Jadaa camp until they are given clearance from the Interior Ministry to return to their homes and issued identification documents.

Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline to resume operation

The pipeline exporting crude oil from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Ceyhan is ready to resume operation, seven months after it was ordered closed by an international court ruling. On March 23, the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Baghdad against Ankara, finding that the latter breached a 1973 agreement by allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government to begin independent oil exports in 2014. The judgement confirmed that Iraqi national oil company SOMO is the only entity authorized to manage export operations through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline. The KRG, based in Erbil, has now acceded to these terms, agreeing to market through SOMO.

Turkish strikes on Iraq after Ankara blast

Turkey launched a wave of air-strikes on Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq, hours after a suicide blast hit the Interior Ministry complex in Ankara Oct. 1. The Turkish military said 20 targets were destroyed and several fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were "neutralized." The People Defense Forces (HPG), armed wing of the PKK, released a statement via the rebel movement's Firat News Agency (ANF) saying that a "sacrificial action" against the Interior Ministry was carried out by a unit from their Immortal Brigade. The two assailants, both women, were killed in the attack—one as she detonated her payload while storming the entrance to the ministry compound, the other shot by police. Two police officers were also wounded. The HPG statement said the attack was a "warning" to the Turkish government over its ongoing military operations against Kurdish militants both in Syria and in Iraq. (BBC News, Arab NewsEKurd, Al-Monitor, EuroNews)

Iraq: security forces fired on Kirkuk protesters

Iraqi security forces appear to have opened fire on demonstrators without prior warning in Kirkuk on Sept. 2, killing at least four people and injuring 16, Human Rights Watch has found. The violence comes amid months of increasing tensions between Kirkuk's Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen populations. An inquiry into the incident opened by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani should be independent and impartial in its investigation of allegations of excessive use of deadly force by Iraqi security forces, HRW urged. "Time and again, the Iraqi government has responded to protests with lethal force and arrests of journalists," said HRW Iraq researcher Sarah Sanbar. "The government needs to take concrete steps that result in accountability for these actions."

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