- News ZEIT-ONLINE: Hans-Olaf Henkel „Meine letzte Warnung vor Angela Merkel.“
- From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)
- “Race to the Euphrates” — The Battle for Deir ez-Zor
- ELN Group Statement: Sustaining the Iran Nuclear Deal
- Andrey Kortunov Takes Part in 14th YES Annual Meeting in Kiev
- Vladimir Yakunin: A New Cold War or Can We Move from ‘Lose-Lose’ to ‘Win-Win’?
- West Point / Combating Terrorism Center – The Islamic State and the Kurds: The Documentary Evidence.
- US Dep of State / US Embassy Berlin: Zur aktuellen Lage im Kampf gegen die IS-Terrormiliz / Press Conference by Special Presidential Envoy McGurk in Erbil, Iraq
- The Growing Power of Water in Syria
- Wall Street Journal: As ISIS Falters, U.S. Allies and Syrian Regime Maneuver for Advantage
- John Kemp / Reuters/: Mission accomplished? OPEC banishes contango
News Alert: Abe urges U.N. states to wage blockade against North, time for dialogue is over… Abe reiterated Wednesday that Japan consistently supports the U.S. stance that “all options are on the table.”
Massenbach* . Meine letzte Warnung vor Angela Merkel.
Ein Gastbeitrag von Hans-Olaf Henkel. Hans-Olaf Henkel war Industriepräsident, Sprecher der AfD und Gründer von Alfa. Diesmal wird er nicht wählen gehen
Spätestens seit die sozialdemokratische Regierung in Schweden die Grenzen schloss und Merkel die Grenzen für Flüchtlinge öffnete, hat Deutschland unsere vorbildlichen Lieblingsskandinavier als moralische Supermacht in der Welt abgelöst. Lange bevor die ZEIT im letzten Sommer titelte: "Sind die Deutschen verrückt geworden?", stellte ich mir diese Frage und versuchte eine Antwort darauf zu finden. Gehen wir einmal den Ursachen der Merkelschen Sonderwege nach, denn ihre "gut gemeinte" Politik belastet ja nicht nur Deutschland, sondern in nur scheinbar paradoxer Weise auch viele unserer Partnerländer.
Schon zu Beginn ihrer Kanzlerschaft zeigte Merkel ihre Neigung zu Rettungsaktionen. Lange bevor sie die Grenzen für die in Budapest gestrandeten Flüchtlinge mit den inzwischen bekannten Folgen öffnen ließ, wollte sie erst einmal Europa retten, zuvor noch das Klima in der Welt.
Seit nunmehr sieben Jahren rettet Merkel den Euro zulasten Deutschlands. Ihre demonstrative Ablehnung von Eurobonds ist nur noch ein Popanz, denn EZB-Chef Draghi hat ihr dieses Problem längst abgenommen. Dafür hat er einen Berg von inzwischen über 850 Milliarden Euro an Target-2-Salden bei der EZB aufgetürmt. Diese sehen wir nie wieder! Oder glaubt jemand ernsthaft, dass Forderungen zu Nullzinsen und ohne verbindliches Rückzahldatum je eingetrieben werden können? In meinem ehemaligen Unternehmen wäre ich gesetzlich verpflichtet gewesen, solche Forderungen sofort auf "null" abzuschreiben; Merkels Finanzminister hat sie aber faktisch immer noch zum vollen Nennwert in seinen Büchern stehen – so viel zur Nachhaltigkeit der "Schwarzen Null"!
IBM-Manager, BDI-Präsident, Präsident der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft: Hans-Olaf Henkel, Jahrgang 1940, hatte verschiedene wichtige Fuktionen und Ämter inne. Bekannt als Publizist und Experte in Wirtschaftsfragen, bringt er seine Erfahrungen als Abgeordneter der Liberal-Konservativen Reformer (LKR) in das Europäische Parlament ein. Die LKR gehören zur Fraktion der Europäischen Konservativen und Reformisten (EKR/ECR). In Hamburg absolvierte Henkel eine kaufmännische Lehre bei Kühne & Nagel und studierte an der Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Politik. 1987 wurde er Vorsitzender der Geschäftsführung der IBM Deutschland. Von 2001 bis 2012 lehrte er als Honorarprofessor an der Universität Mannheim. Hans-Olaf Henkel ist verheiratet mit der Universitätsprofessorin Bettina Hannover und Vater von vier Kindern.
Aber nicht nur das, über ihre Zustimmung zur Bankenunion rettet Merkel ausländische Banken, nimmt Negativzinsen für deutsche Sparer in Kauf und lässt zu, dass Sparkassen für das Gezocke ausländischer Finanzinstitute haften müssen. Mit ihrer Eurorettungspolitik hat Merkel nicht nur Deutschlands wirtschaftliche Zukunft belastet, sie hat unser Land auch in eine politische Zwickmühle gebracht: Als Vertreterin des potenziell größten Gläubigers muss sie natürlich den potenziellen Schuldnern Vorschriften machen. Berlin verlangt mehr Privatisierung von den Griechen, Arbeitsmarktreformen von den Franzosen, Schuldendisziplin von Italienern; eine verheerende, aber unausweichliche Nebenwirkung ihres Mantras "Scheitert der Euro, scheitert Europa". Wurde sie etwa von Griechen, Franzosen und Italienern gewählt? Kein Wunder, dass noch im Jahre 2010, also vor ihrem ersten Rettungspaket für Griechenland, die Deutschen dort als die "sympathischsten aller Europäer" wahrgenommen wurden, die Kanzlerin aber bei ihren zwei Besuchen nachher in Athen von Tausenden Polizisten beschützt werden musste. Gut gemeint ist eben nicht immer gut gemacht. Merken manche "großen Europäer" eigentlich nicht, was sie Europa antun?
Stattdessen propagiert Merkel, dass "Deutschland am meisten vom Euro profitieren" würde. Einmal ganz davon abgesehen, dass das Wirtschaftswachstum Deutschlands seit Einführung des Euros weit hinter dem des Rests der Welt hinterherhinkt: Was für eine schräge Subventionspolitik ist das, die den deutschen Exporteuren einerseits erlaubt, aufgrund eines aus ihrer Sicht unterbewerteten Euro die Welt mit Gütern zu überschwemmen, vom deutschen Steuerzahler aber andererseits erwartet, die finanziellen Folgen eines aus der Sicht der Südländer und Frankreichs weit überbewerteten Euros zu tragen?
Auch Merkels Rettung des Klimas ist nur ein Scheinerfolg. Mit ihrem überstürzten Ausstieg aus der Kernkraft machte sich Merkel zwar für Europas Grüne zu einer Art moralischer Vorreiterin; in Wirklichkeit erhöhte sie damit das Risiko für die Deutschen. Einerseits nahm sie damit die stark gestiegene Abhängigkeit von weniger sicheren ausländischen Atommeilern in Kauf, andererseits ließ sie durch die chaotisch vollzogene Energiewende die Stromkosten für Haushalte und den Mittelstand in schwindelnde Höhen ansteigen.
Deutsche Sonderwege haben außerdem den weltweiten Ausstoß an Treibhausgasen erhöht statt gesenkt. Es stimmt zwar, dass Aluminiumschmelzen, Stahlwerke, Zement- und Chemiebetriebe immer weniger CO2 in Deutschland ausstoßen, aber es stimmt eben auch, dass die gleichen Produkte nun erheblich weniger umweltfreundlich anderswo hergestellt werden. Merkels Klimapolitik ignoriert die Globalisierung der Wirtschaft und die Globalität des Klimaproblems.
Die Folgen Merkelscher Flüchtlingspolitik sind den Deutschen viel später als anderen Europäern klargeworden. Natürlich lag das auch an der Tendenz deutscher Medien, Flüchtende möglichst positiv darzustellen, bis heute vermisse ich objektive Berichte über drei Aspekte dieser Politik.
Flüchtlingspolitik von heute hat mit der von 2015 nichts mehr zu tun
Erstens hat Merkels Politik dazu geführt, dass sich viele Menschen nicht nur nach Deutschland eingeladen gefühlt, sondern in der Wüste und auf dem Meer ihr Leben riskiert haben. Merkel selbst erklärte Anfang des Jahres, dass "seit dem Abkommen mit der Türkei (nur) sieben Menschen in der Ägäis ertrunken" seien. Ich weiß, dass für sie selbst ein Ertrunkener zu viel gewesen wäre, aber warum fragt eigentlich keiner, warum so viele Menschen, angelockt von Merkels Willkommenskultur, ihr Leben in der Ägäis ließen, bevor dieses Abkommen unterzeichnet wurde?
Zweitens kamen vor allem (junge) Männer. Dass sie nicht Asyl, sondern ein besseres Leben suchen, hat sich inzwischen auch bei deutschen Medien herumgesprochen, aber was ist eigentlich mit deren Müttern, Ehefrauen, Schwester und Töchtern? Wenn Merkel im Bundestag die Bilder von der Schlacht um Aleppo bemüht, um Verständnis für ihre Flüchtlingspolitik zu erzeugen, wo bleibt ihre Solidarität mit den dort alleingelassenen Frauen?
Drittens bezeugte sie jüngst, dass sie alles genau so noch einmal machen würde, obwohl ihre Flüchtlingspolitik von heute längst nichts mehr mit der von vor zwei Jahren zu tun hat. Wenn die Bilder vom Budapester Bahnhof so unerträglich waren, wo blieb Merkels Mitgefühl angesichts der späteren Bilder von Idomeni, wo Tausende von Flüchtlingen bei strengster Kälte, im Morast und unter freiem Himmel zu sehen waren?
Für mich liegt der Grund für diesen Widerspruch auf der Hand: Nach Budapest ließ sich Merkel durch Vertreter der deutschen "Elite", deutscher Medien und den Flüchtlingen selbst gern feiern. Zu dem Zeitpunkt war sie sogar als mögliche Friedensnobelpreisträgerin im Gespräch. Als sie merkte, dass die Deutschen durch die Bilder von Zehntausenden Flüchtlingen zunehmend verunsichert wurden, machte sie eine Kehrtwende. Das erinnerte mich an ihre Reaktion auf die Bilder der explodierenden Meiler in Fukushima. Ihre Flüchtlingspolitik von heute hat mit der von 2015 jedenfalls nichts mehr zu tun.
Auch wird übersehen, dass sich Merkel nicht nur bei den Polen, Tschechen und Slowaken mit ihrer Flüchtlingspolitik isoliert hat. Keine Regierung in der EU unterstützt ihre Politik, sieht man mal von Jean-Claude Juncker, faktischer EU-Präsident von Merkels Gnaden, ab. Trotz aller Appelle für "Solidarität" bleiben wir auf unseren Flüchtlingen sitzen.
Die britischen Kollegen meiner Fraktion im Europäischen Parlament, egal ob für oder gegen den Brexit, berichten mir, welch großen Einfluss die Merkelsche Flüchtlingspolitik auf ihr Referendum hatte. In den Wochen vor der Abstimmung ging es weniger um typisch britische Anliegen wie zu viel Zentralismus, übermäßige Harmonisierung oder die Übermacht des des Europäischen Gerichtshofes. Es ging fast ausschließlich um Zuwanderung. Bedenkt man, dass die Brexiteers am Schluss nur mit circa zwei Prozentpunkten vor den Remainers lagen, ist es durchaus angebracht, Merkel eine gehörige Portion Mitschuld am Brexit zuzuweisen. Das an deutschen Grenzen und in deutschen Städten entstandene Chaos ist den Briten jedenfalls nicht verborgen geblieben und lieferte genau die Argumente, die den Vorkämpfern eines Ausstiegs wie Nigel Farage und Boris Johnson vorher fehlten.
Schließlich muss man gerade vor der Bundestagswahl an einen erheblichen Kollateralschaden ihrer Politik an der politischen Kultur in Deutschland erinnern. Nach dem Führungs- und Richtungswechsel der AfD hat diese Partei im Sommer 2015 buchstäblich Tausende vernünftiger und anständiger Mitglieder verloren. Zu der Zeit gab es kein Umfrageinstitut, keine Zeitung, keine Zeitschrift und keinen TV-Sender, der für die AfD nicht das Schicksal der Piraten voraussah. Die Umfragen vom August 2015 bestätigten es: Die AfD stürzte auf unter fünf Prozent ab. Sie galt als "erledigt". Bei mir bewarben sich Mitarbeiter der AfD-Bundesgeschäftsstelle, weil sie in der Partei selbst keine Zukunft mehr sahen.
Mit dem Öffnen der Schleusen für die Flüchtlinge am 5. September 2015 erstieg die AfD nicht nur wie der Phoenix aus der Asche. Die durch den Exodus der Liberalen frei gewordenen Mitgliederplätze wurden meist von Rechtsaußen, Verschwörungstheoretikern und anderen teilweise unappetitlichen Neuzugängen aufgefüllt. So ist die AfD auch für scharfe Kritiker Merkelscher Politik unwählbar geworden. Da alle anderen Parteien Merkels Energie-, Euro-, Europa- und Flüchtlingspolitik unterstützen, bleibt mir zum ersten Male nur übrig, mich denen anzuschließen, die wahrscheinlich wieder das beste Ergebnis von allen erzielen werden: den Nichtwählern.
From our Russian News Desk. (The views expressed are the author‘s own.)
- “Race to the Euphrates” — The Battle for Deir ez-Zor
- ELN Group Statement: Sustaining the Iran Nuclear Deal
- Andrey Kortunov Takes Part in 14th YES Annual Meeting in Kiev
The conference brought together over 300 well-known politicians, diplomats, experts, and representatives of business community from the EU, the U.S., and Ukraine.
On September 16 Andrey Kortunov made a speech at the RUSSIA’S FUTURE AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR UKRAINE session. Fareed Zakaria, an authoritative American journalist and CNN presenter, moderated the discussion. Gennady Burbulis, Secretary of State of RSFSR/Russian Federation (1991–1992), Michael McFaul, former Ambassador of the U.S. to Russia, Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense (2006–2011), and Pavlo Klimkin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, took part in the discussion.
The the course of the speech, RIAC Director General noted that deescalation in Russia-Ukraine relations is possible. «No matter what is said about Russia’s proposals on peacekeepers, don’t rush to reject them. The following six years will be an important period for Russia. And the most pending issue will be doing something for Russia’s economy not disturbing the current political system. There is no solution for now. It is crucial for Ukraine to achieve stability in relations in the short term. Solving all issues is impossible, but achieving stability looks promising».
Yalta European Strategy (YES) is an international platform that brings together leading Ukrainian and foreign politicians, experts, and representatives of business community. Summit meetings have been held annually since 2004. In 2017 the Summit was held in Kiev on September 14-16, 2017.
A New Cold War or Can We Move from ‘Lose-Lose’ to ‘Win-Win’?
– September 4, 2017
Talk of a ‘new Cold War’ once seemed alarmist, but today it is fast becoming rooted in a new reality, a new mentality of great power confrontation that is eerily reminiscent of a previous era.
A recent editorial in the Washington Post arguing that Russia and US are “on the road to a new Cold War” has been one of the loudest to sound the alarm.
A new package of US sanctions targeting Russian business interests in Europe was followed by a series of diplomatic spats, including the expulsion of American diplomats from Russia and the closure of the Russian consulate in San Francisco, and this tit-for-tat exchange looks set to continue. Unless concrete action is taken to change the trajectory of relations, the two nuclear superpowers appear stuck in a ‘death spiral’.
The aircraft that has carried the complex and fragile cargo of Russian-American dialogue through the turbulence and storms of the last quarter century is plunging downwards. It may have made U-turns over the Atlantic at the height of political turbulence, but on prior occasions it has always regained both its balance and its pace.
Much has been said about how the two nations got here and the role each side has played in bringing circumstances to this point. The narratives of recent events from either side diverge so greatly that it is incredibly unhelpful to respond by laying the blame at either door. The West may wish that Russia was to blame for all its ills, but that is far from being a credible analysis of either recent events, or, indeed, the country’s actual capacity.
It is obvious today that Russian-American relations can no longer be studied apart from the broader international context. Over the last year, this has included Brexit, and the unexpected outcome of the US election, which highlighted tensions within American society and also brought about discord within the transatlantic community over issues like climate change and new sanctions on Iran and Russia. The international context has also seen marked turbulence within the European Union, as reflected by the Polish-German dispute and the attempts to isolate the Hungarian prime minister. Attempts to isolate Russia may have strengthened its ties with its Eastern partners, namely China and India, but they have also influenced the Russian economy and burdened European manufacturers. Going a step further, the question arises as to what extent executive powers can influence the aforementioned developments. The new sanctions against Russia were supposedly put forward by the US Congress against the will of the Trump administration and whilst under fire from major American media outlets. So who should be addressed in order to restore dialogue?
Russia and the United States are very different countries, with very different histories. Yet Moscow is a long way from being the trigger-happy sparring partner that some seem so keen to rouse.
Moscow’s fiercest criticism has historically been over moves by Washington that it sees as direct threats, such as NATO’s eastward expansion. Criticism over Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Belgrade, has been relatively muted.
Russia delayed its response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats and the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the US in late 2016, in order to give the new administration a chance to consider and formulate its position. This was both the rational and the sporting thing to do.
The current crisis promises to be a long-lasting one, because the sanctions on Russia will have a long-term impact and cannot be reversed overnight.
The two countries have different histories; they do not border each other geographically, and they have a relatively low volume of bilateral investment and trade, in comparison to respective relations with Europe or China.
The differences between the two countries are such that despite all the obvious benefits of cooperation in areas like the fight against terrorism, political relations risk remaining deliberately strained for years to come. It is easy to win dividends in terms of public approval, and simultaneously to inspire hostility, with reference to somebody who does not live next door to you. But this is a grave mistake, because any prolonged hostility at the political level will inevitably weigh down relations more broadly and risk impacting relations between ordinary people. Ordinary people’s lives, fundamentally disrupted for generations by the Cold War, remain largely unaffected so far. This is both a valuable asset and a source of leverage that should be used to restore dialogue.
I believe that Moscow and Washington are fully cognisant of the gravity of the present situation.
What concrete steps can be taken to break the deadlock? They can be found in five possible areas.
Firstly, we could work towards establishing a credible US-Russia civil council that would mediate, and suggest ways to de-escalate current tensions. This would be a new non-governmental organisation empowered by both sides to mediate and to be able to advise both governments. Presidents Putin and Macron proposed such a civil forum for Russia and France, and this model has worked well in the past with the French-Russian Dialogue Association as well.
Secondly, and most urgently, the two nations can work together against terrorism through information-sharing under the auspices of the NATO-Russia council. Launching such a mechanism to ease communication regarding shared threats, such as IS fighters returning from Syria, would improve cooperation at the level of the military and intelligence services.
We could also accelerate academic ties, especially in the political and social sciences. Our research has found that the number of US doctoral studies on Russia peaked in the 1970s and then dropped fourfold – which is indicative of a decline in regional expertise. Launching new double-degree programmes is an ideal response to this troubling trend.
Fourthly, we could revisit major projects like the TTIP or seek practical ways to expand the Lisbon-Vladivostok transport corridor to Alaska. Our research shows that shared long-term infrastructure projects may halve the risk of a major conflict between the parties involved. Such projects are extremely complex and consume both time and investment, but just think of the history of the Eurotunnel, which was first conceived back in the nineteenth century and was implemented just a couple of decades ago. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Finally, we can identify areas of clear mutual interest in other parts of the globe – such as the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and work together towards those ends.
In the cool light of day, the US does not want to see Russia collapse like the USSR, or fragment like Yugoslavia. Neither is today’s Russia ready to bring down a new iron curtain, to isolate itself in the manner of the North Korean model. There are hardly sufficient grounds for a grand ideological confrontation between the two nations, and there is no reason why they should not learn to coexist in a new multipolar world.
It is time we embraced a new pragmatism, engaged in dialogue, and learned to compromise, because too much is at stake.
Policy= res publica
Freudenberg-Pilster* – West Point / Combating Terrorism Center –
The Islamic State and the Kurds: The Documentary Evidence.
September 21, 2017
Author(s): Aymenn Al-Tamimi
Abstract: Drawing in part on internal Islamic State documents, this article aims to provide a new and more nuanced understanding of how the Islamic State has dealt with Kurds. Though the Islamic State is often characterized as being inherently anti-Kurdish, the organization has recruited Kurds and directed messaging toward Kurdish audiences. At the same time, internal documents in particular show the tensions between realities on the ground for Kurdish communities that lived under Islamic State control and the organization’s ideology that is, in theory, blind to ethnicity.
The controversy over how the Islamic State has treated Kurds is often colored with sensationalist language, with the suggestion that the Islamic State, an entity whose ranks consist primarily of Sunni Arabs, maltreats Kurds simply on the basis of their ethnicity. This narrative stems partly from conflating Kurdish experiences with the Islamic State with the organization’s genocide against the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq, which does not necessarily identify as ethnically Kurdish but speaks the Kurdish language. For example, one article in The National Interest claims that with the rise of the Islamic State, “the Kurds also began to make headlines, first as the victims of the barbaric hordes of the self-proclaimed caliphate, then as its most capable and willing adversaries.”1 Similarly, an October 2014 article in Financial Times spoke of the Islamic State’s “targeting of the Kurds.”2Ranj Alaaldin, in an opinion piece for The Guardian, goes even further in generalization, asserting that “jihadi groups such as ISIS view Kurds … and other minorities as heretics.”3
The immediate counterpoint to these claims of Islamic State persecution of Kurds merely for being Kurds is that such behavior conflicts with the organization’s ideology. While the Islamic State’s main means of functioning and communicating is the Arabic language, the Islamic State’s worldview is, in theory, based on the dichotomy of Muslims and non-Muslims. Thus, when it comes to those identified as Muslim, their ethnicity should not matter. This line of thought has been expressed with consistency. For instance, in a speech announcing the establishment of the caliphate, the organization’s then spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, drew attention to the precedent of the acceptance of Islam by the Arabs that supposedly resulted in eliminating distinctions based on ethnicity. “By God’s blessing, they became brothers … and they united in faith … not distinguishing between non-Arab and Arab, or between eastern and western, or between white and black.”4
This article seeks to provide a more nuanced understanding between the narrative of Islamic State persecution of Kurds simply for being Kurdish and the theoretical ideal of no discrimination among Muslims on the basis of ethnicity. This subject will be explored primarily through internal Islamic State documents, though some of the organization’s external propaganda will be taken into account as well. As part of the investigation, this article will particularly focus on Islamic State recruitment of Kurds and the policies toward Kurdish communities and Kurds living in its areas.
Islamic State Recruitment of Kurds
The presence of Kurds in jihadi groups is by no means a new phenomenon. Most notably, prior to 2003, the history and background of the jihadi group Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam), which was led by Mullah Krekar, illustrate Kurdish involvement in salafi and jihadi trends in the Iraqi Kurdistan area for decades.5 Beyond Iraqi Kurdistan, Brian Fishman has highlighted the case of Abu al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a Kurd from Mosul who was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War.6 Abu al-Hadi al-Iraqi migrated to the Afghanistan-Pakistan area and became a leading figure in al-Qa`ida by the end of the 1990s. Among the training camps for residents of the al-Qa`ida guesthouse run by Abu al-Hadi al-Iraqi was a ‘Kurds Camp,’ which, as its name suggests, was intended to train Kurdish jihadi operatives.7
Given these precedents, it should not be surprising that the Islamic State would recruit Kurds who are ideologically committed to its cause. In this regard, there have been multiple propaganda items from the Islamic State featuring Kurds in the organization’s ranks. Prior to the caliphate announcement, one such item was the 26th video in the series “A Window Upon the Land of Epic Battles,” released in November 2013 by what was then the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham’s al-Itisam media. The video, entitled “A Message to the Kurds and a Martyrdom Operation,” features a Kurdish speaker threatening the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, vowing that “by God’s permission, we will return to Kurdistan with the arms we have placed on our shoulders.”8 The speaker continues, “By God’s permission we will defeat you just as we have defeated the apostates of the PKK and the shabiha of Bashar…despite the force of their arms and their large numbers.”9 The speaker is thus making a clear distinction between fighting Kurds merely for being Kurdish and fighting Kurdish political entities that are deemed apostate (i.e., Muslim by origin but having left the fold of Islam) for espousing a heretical, nationalistic outlook.
After the declaration of the caliphate, propaganda appeals to Kurds emerged in productions such as “The Kurds – Between Monotheism and Atheism” from the Raqqa province media office. The video, which has Kurdish subtitles where necessary, features Kurdish fighters for the Islamic State while highlighting a contrast between Kurdish forbears portrayed as having performed great services for the Islamic cause—such as Salah al-Din, who fought the Crusaders and brought about the end of the Shi’i Fatimid Caliphate—and modern-day Kurdish nationalist causes, such as Mustafa Barzani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, portrayed as allies of Israel.10
Syria and Northern Iraq (Rowan Technology)
An item from the internal propaganda series Qisas al-Mujahideena and some external media reporting point to the existence of a Kurdish-speaking unit within the Islamic State’s fighting forces known as the Salah al-Din Battalion.11 According to Qisas al-Mujahideen,12 the battalion takes its name from a certain Salah al-Din al-Kurdi, who was originally from Halabja and took up arms against the U.S. occupation, forming his own contingents of operatives. Arrested by U.S. forces in 2008, he supposedly spent time in Abu Ghraib prison, but was then released on grounds of ill health. By late 2011 or early 2012, Salah al-Din al-Kurdi had returned to jihadi activity, joining the Islamic State of Iraq and then sent to conduct a suicide operation in the run-up to the Arab League Summit in Baghdad at the end of March 2012. (See Exhibit 1.)
Finally, there is evidence of significant Islamic State recruitment in Turkey among the Kurdish minority. As Metin Gurcan notes, the recruitment “reflects the fact that many Kurds live in southeast Turkey, the most religious part of the country.”13 Many of these Kurdish jihadis, coming from a historically marginalized minority in Turkey, appear to believe that the Islamic State would grant them equal rights.14
Thus, so far as recruitment is concerned, the evidence is clear that the Islamic State willingly accepts fighters and members of Kurdish origin. The criterion of acceptance that matters here is the ideological commitment to the Islamic State.
Kurdish Communities Living under the Islamic State
While the Islamic State has no problem in recruiting Kurds willing to serve and fight for the organization, most people in the various cities, towns, and villages that have fallen under Islamic State control do not become members of the Islamic State. Rather, they remain as civilians. Many of these civilians might have ended up working in various administrative offices and aspects of governance co-opted by the Islamic State (e.g., teachers in schools), but that does not mean that they became members of the Islamic State.
Kurdish communities and populations are known to have existed in many areas that were seized by the Islamic State, including villages in north and east Aleppo countryside, the cities of Raqqa and Tabqa along the Euphrates in central northern Syria, and the city of Mosul. According to Islamic State maxims, the theory is that the group should deal with these Kurdish communities solely on the basis of their religion. If they are Muslims who outwardly follow the rules and rituals of Islam, then there is no reason to treat them any differently than Sunni Arabs abiding by the dictates of the religion and living under Islamic State control. The principle is well illustrated in a statement distributed by the Islamic State’s Ninawa province media office in Mosul in late July 2014, denying the rumors of forcible displacement of Kurds from the province. The statement affirms, “The Sunni Kurds are our brothers in God. What is for them is for us, and what is upon them is upon us. And we will not allow any one of them to be harmed so long as they remain on the principle of Islam.”15 In practice, however, the widespread suspicions and associations of Kurdish communities with Kurdish nationalist parties have led to discriminatory treatment in many areas under Islamic State control.
The evidence for discriminatory treatment of Kurdish communities primarily comes from internal documents from Syria. Close cooperation between the U.S.-led coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—the Democratic Union Party and its armed wing the Popular Protection Units (YPG)—has been vital in pushing back the Islamic State in the north and northeast of the country. In June 2015, the Islamic State issued a notification in Raqqa province requiring Kurdish inhabitants to leave for the Palmyra area in Homs province.16 The decision was justified on the grounds of the “alliance of the Kurdish parties” with the U.S.-led coalition and that there were some among the Kurdish inhabitants under the Islamic State who had “cooperated with the Crusader alliance.” Thus, on the grounds of alleviating tension, the stipulation to leave Raqqa province was imposed. At the same time, the Islamic State was careful to emphasize that the properties of those Kurds required to leave but considered to be Muslims would not be confiscated, and the group made arrangements for their property to be registered with the real estate bureaucracy. A subsequent statement was issued by the emir of Raqqa city, warning Islamic State fighters that they could not infringe on those properties.17 This prohibition was reaffirmed the following month,18 suggesting that violations had taken place. It is not clear, in the end, how far these stipulations against seizing Kurdish properties were enforced.
The documentary evidence suggests that not all Kurds who were living in Raqqa province under the Islamic State ultimately left these areas. It appears that it subsequently became possible to obtain an exception to the requirement to leave. From the Raqqa province city of Tabqa, a document dated December 2015 emerged from the ruins of the aftermath of the Islamic State’s defeat there by the U.S.-backed SDF. The document noted that those Kurds who still wished to reside in Raqqa province had to go to the office of Kurdish affairs.19 Many Kurds, of course, would have fled Islamic State territory entirely, and the Delegated Committee (a general governing body for the Islamic State) issued a directive in mid-August/mid-September 2015 requiring confiscation of property of Kurds who fled to “the land of kufr” (land governed by those deemed to be non-Muslims).20 It should be noted, however, that confiscation of property of those who fled the Islamic State was not unique to the Kurds and other ethnic minorities. A similar fate befell the properties of medical professionals who fled the Islamic State,21 as well as those accused of working with other factions opposed to the Islamic State like the Free Syrian Army.
The suspicion of Kurdish communities in Syria was not limited to Raqqa province. In Aleppo province, a number of villages with Kurdish communities came under the control of the Islamic State. Internal documents obtained by this author reveal a security report issued by the al-Bab office of the public security department in July 2016 and addressed to the higher public security ministry.b (See Exhibit 2.) The report gives a detailed description of “some of the Kurdish villages in the province that represent a danger to the Islamic State because of the loyalty of the majority of their inhabitants to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and their hatred of members of the Dawla [Islamic State].” Among the charges leveled in the al-Bab report are that the Kurdish communities have been deceiving members of the Islamic State about “places of the presence of the atheists” (referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces); “receiving and welcoming the atheists;” videos disseminated on the Internet featuring complaints about impositions of Islamic norms such as payment of zakat taxation and the dress code for women; and informing Kurdish forces in advance of Islamic State raids into their territory. For context, the reference to welcoming the SDF and the displays of rejecting “Islamic” morality are amply attested in reports at the time of the sense of liberation felt by many locals (not necessarily just Kurds) as the Syrian Democratic Forces were capturing the Manbij area in east Aleppo countryside from the Islamic State.22
The al-Bab report proceeds to give some specific cases, such as the village of Qibat al-Shih to the north of al-Bab town. According to the report, 99% of the village is Kurdish, with 70% having been with “the atheist party” (presumably referring to the Democratic Union Party/PKK). The Islamic State, the report claims, “killed many of the sons of this village for their loyalty to their Kurdish nationalism, as in the battle of Ayn al-Islam [Kobani], they were going to Turkey and from there to Ayn al-Islam to fight with the PKK.” In another case, about a village called Haymar Labadah on the route between Manbij and al-Khafsa with a population of 5,000, the report claims that “the majority of them are from those who hate the Islamic State.” More specifically, the report alleges, for example, that by night the people of the village attacked the Hisba [Islamic morality enforcement] base in the village 10 days after it had been opened, stealing 50,000 Syrian pounds ($90-100), a laptop, and some confiscated cigarettes. Moreover, the report says that there are people from the village who have been participating in the SDF campaign to capture Manbij.
On the basis of the various cases presented, the report concludes with the suggestion to “displace the people of these villages in the present time to avoid the cases of treachery that happened in the similar villages that have now fallen under the control of the PKK.”
Despite the recommendations of the security report, it is not clear whether the suggested policy of displacement was actually implemented, as opposed to the documents from Raqqa province where the evidence of implementation of forced displacement is unambiguous. At least some Kurdish communities continue to reside in areas of north Aleppo countryside retaken from the Islamic State by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.23 However, the fact that recommendations for displacement were put forward at all, taken in combination with the displacement that took place in Raqqa province, illustrates that Islamic State policies toward many Kurdish communities in areas under its control were tainted with suspicion and hostility. As one anti-PKK Kurdish activist currently based in the north Aleppo countryside area of Akhtarin explained to this author, more fieldwork will be required to track specific village and town cases of displacement, but in the general sense, the “proportion of [Islamic State] oppression on the Kurds was more” than that on the Sunni Arab communities.24
From a counterterrorism perspective, highlighting the internal documentary evidence of Islamic State suspicion and hostility toward many Kurdish communities, despite the theoretical ideal of only discriminating among people on the basis of their religion, may be worthwhile in an attempt to split Kurdish fighters from the ranks of the Islamic State, who may have joined the group believing that the Islamic State treats Kurdish Muslims fairly. CTC
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi is the Jihad-Intel Research Fellow at the Middle East Forum, a U.S.-based think-tank, and an associate fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College, London. He has testified on the Islamic State before British parliamentary committees
Appendix: Previously Unpublished Internal Documents Referenced in This Article
Exhibit 1: Biography of Salah al-Din al-Kurdi from the series Qisas al-Mujahideen
Exhibit 2: Security report on Kurdish communities issued by the al-Bab office of the public security department, July 2016
Exhibit 2 (cont.): Security report on Kurdish communities issued by the al-Bab office of the public security department, July 2016
Exhibit 2 (cont.): Security report on Kurdish communities issued by the al-Bab office of the public security department, July 2016
Exhibit 2 (cont.): Security report on Kurdish communities issued by the al-Bab office of the public security department, July 2016
[a] As a source for information, the series needs to be treated with a degree of caution. The stories related are designed to boost the morale of Islamic State fighters, and as such they are open to considerable embellishment and perhaps even total fabrication.
[b] These documents were obtained through an intermediary via the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya, which is based in the north Aleppo countryside. Its members, who originate in the eastern Deir ez-Zor province, participated in battles against the Islamic State in Aleppo province and have taken Islamic State members as prisoners. In addition, they continue to maintain connections with contacts in eastern Syria and thus, have multiple avenues for obtaining Islamic State documents. The study obtained reflects a typical function of the Islamic State’s security department in the provinces—that is, to investigate anything that may be considered a security threat to the Islamic State.
 Burak Kadercan, “This is what ISIS’ Rise Means for the ‘Kurdish Question,’” National Interest, September 9, 2015.
 Thomas Hale, “A short history of the Kurds,” Financial Times, October 17, 2014.
 Ranj Alaaldin, “The ISIS campaign against Iraq’s Shia Muslims is not politics. It’s genocide,” Guardian, January 5, 2017.
 Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, “This is the promise of God,” Al-Furqan Media, June 29, 2014.
 Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “A Complete History of Jama’at Ansar al-Islam,” aymennjawad.org, December 15, 2015.
 Brian Fishman, “The Man Who Could Have Stopped The Islamic State,” Foreign Policy, November 23, 2016.
 “Al-Itisam Media presents a new video message from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham: ‘A Window Upon the Land of Epic Battles #26,’” Jihadology, November 15, 2013.
 “New video message from the Islamic State: ‘The Kurds: Between Monotheism and Atheism, Wilayat al-Raqqah,’” Jihadology, August 2, 2016.
 For example, “Who is leading the Da’esh forces on the right side in Mosul…and why?” Qoraish, January 19, 2017.
 Story of Salah al-Din al-Kurdi, Qisas al-Mujahideen (see Exhibit 1). This was obtained by the author (via an intermediary) from an individual who worked in the Islamic State administration in Manbij and left for the Azaz area in the north Aleppo countryside.
 Metin Guran, “The Ankara Bombings and the Islamic State’s Turkey Strategy,” CTC Sentinel 8:10 (2015).
 Specimen 8Y in Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents,” aymennjawad.org, January 27, 2015. This archive of Islamic State administrative documents is housed on the author’s website and reflects an ongoing project that began in January 2015 to collect and translate Islamic State documents, which total more than 1,000 in number. This archive includes gathering of documents available in the open-source realm and documents collected privately from contacts, with determinations made as to their authenticity based on a number of criteria (e.g., use of stamps, absence of red flag motifs. etc.).
 Specimen 5M in “Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents.”
 Specimen 6B in “Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents.”
 Specimen 9Z in “Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents.”
 Specimen 37R in Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, “Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents (continued … again),” aymennjawad.org, September 17, 2016.
 Specimen 25J in “Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents (continued … again).”
 Specimen 5I in “Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents.”
 For example, Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, “Syrian Arabs around Manbij overjoyed IS vanquished, welcome SDF, Kurds,” Middle East Eye, June 12, 2016.
 Aymenn al-Tamimi, “#Syria: Shami Front and Ahrar al-Sham visit Kurdish village of Susenbat in north Aleppo countryside: outreach to Kurdish tribal figures,” Twitter, May 1, 2017.
 Author interview, Ahmad Masto, anti-PKK Kurdish activist in Syria, September 2017.
****************************************************************************************************************** Politics: From Vision to Action
Barandat*Zur aktuellen Lage im Kampf gegen die IS-Terrormiliz
Am 14. September trat Brett McGurk, der Sondergesandte des Präsidenten für die Internationale Allianz im Kampf gegen die IS-Terrormiliz, in Erbil (Irak) vor die Presse und legte die aktuelle Lage dar. Wir veröffentlichen hier eine unerheblich gekürzte Version seiner Erklärung.
[…] Ich möchte Sie kurz auf den neuesten Stand über eine Reihe ausgesprochen konstruktiver und positiver Treffen geben, die wir hier in Bagdad und Sulaimaniyya, in Erbil und heute in Dahuk hatten.
Angefangen haben wir vor einigen Tagen in Bagdad. Bei einem Treffen mit Premierminister Abadi und Mitgliedern seines Stabes haben wir etwa zweieinhalb Stunden lang nicht nur über den Kampf gegen die IS-Terrormiliz, sondern auch über die allgemeine Situation im Irak und in der gesamten Region gesprochen.
Die Vereinigten Staaten und die gesamte internationale Allianz, die mittlerweile 69 Länder umfasst, haben großes Vertrauen in Premierminister Abadi. Wir sind der Ansicht, dass er die Offensive gegen die IS-Terrormiliz sehr erfolgreich leitet.
Und darüber hinaus, was auch sehr wichtig ist, die gesamte Region. Wir sind Zeugen einer historischen Annäherung zwischen Saudi-Arabien und dem Irak geworden. Ich war in Amman, bevor ich hierher in den Irak gereist bin. Auch die Öffnung des Grenzübergangs Trebil zwischen Jordanien und dem Irak ist ein sehr wichtiges Ereignis. Wir bemühen uns sehr, dafür zu sorgen, dass die Region auch in der Zeit nach der Herrschaft der IS-Terrormiliz einen Aufschwung erlebt und die Integration des Irak innerhalb der Region weiter voranschreitet. (contd. : https://de.usembassy.gov/de/zur-aktuellen-lage-im-kampf-gegen-is/ )
Press Conference by Special Presidential Envoy McGurk in Erbil, Iraq
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIS, Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIS
September 14, 2017
MR. MCGURK: Okay. Thank you very much for joining me. Unfortunately, I have to keep this fairly short, but I just wanted to give a brief update on a series of really very constructive and positive meetings that we’ve had here in Baghdad and Sulaymaniyah, here in Erbil, and today in Dahuk.
So, began a couple nights ago in Baghdad. We met with Prime Minister Abadi and members of his team for about two-and-a-half hours, discussing not only the fight against Daesh, but also the overall situation here in Iraq and in the region.
And the United States, our entire international coalition, which is now 69 countries, we have tremendous confidence in Prime Minister Abadi. We believe he’s done a tremendous job in leading this overall campaign against Daesh.
And also, very importantly, the overall regional environment. We’ve seen a historic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. That’s very important. I was in Amman before I came here to Iraq. And opening the Trebil border crossing between Jordan and Iraq, also a very important moment. So we’re working very hard to make sure that, in the post-Daesh environment, we also have an improving regional environment, as Iraq gets further integrated into the region.
Then traveled to Sulaymaniyah. And let me first say whenever I’m here in the Kurdistan region just how honored we have been to work with all of you and with the heroic Kurdish Peshmerga in this fight against Daesh. The Peshmerga have suffered almost 2,000 martyrs in this overall campaign, and the Iraqi forces have probably suffered five times more.* So if you put that into context, this has really been a very extensive campaign against Daesh. It has now lasted almost three years.
We can see there is still a few battles to go. I just came from a briefing on the upcoming operations in Hawija. But the combination of the sacrifice from the Kurdish Peshmerga is something that we, the United States, our entire coalition, and the entire world are — really honor. We extend our condolences to the martyrs and to the families, and similar to all those lost on the side of the Iraqi Security Forces.
And the historic cooperation we’ve seen between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces has really been essential to the victories we’ve seen recently against Daesh, particularly in Mosul. And again, I just came from a briefing on a very important meeting that was held today between leaders of the Kurdish Security Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces for upcoming operations in Hawija. And I’m very pleased that that cooperation remains very strong. And that’s something that we want to see continue, obviously.
So, even as there are political disagreements ongoing, which I will discuss, it is very important that we remain united and focused on the effort to defeat Daesh and ensure they have a lasting defeat. And this war against Daesh is not over. They are still in Hawija, just south of here. And those operations will be starting very soon. And we have to make sure that we all remain focused on this very serious threat.
So in Sulaymaniyah we had very good meetings with the leadership of the PUK. We saw Hero Talabani, we saw Bafel Talabani, we saw Lahur Talabani. And I extended my best regards to them and for their cooperation with us. I also sent my best regards to Mam Jalal, who has been such a close partner of ours for so many years, and also praise the heroic sacrifice of the PUK, not only in this campaign against Daesh, but over so many years here in the Kurdistan Region.
We met with the leadership of the Gorran Party, and I extended my deepest condolences on behalf of the United States for the loss of Nawshirwan Mustafa. The loss is really profoundly felt. And I extended my regards to him on behalf of us. And also had a very good meeting with the new leadership of the Gorran Party and the importance of fully participating in the political process, being a part of the process here. And we had a very constructive discussion about the upcoming political horizon here in the Kurdistan Region.
Here in Erbil we had very good meetings with more leaders of the PUK. We saw Vice President Kosrat Rasul yesterday, a very, very constructive discussion. Again, thanked him for his heroic leadership over so many years. I also met with Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his leadership team last night to discuss the many issues confronting the Kurdistan Region and the issues confronting Iraq. Again, a very constructive discussion. And then today we spent most of the day in Dahuk with President Barzani.
In the meetings today with President Barzani, it was very poignant, because we were at a command center in Dahuk, which not too long ago was only about less than five kilometers away from the front line against Daesh. Now, of course, they are hundreds of kilometers away, and we will ensure that they can never come back.
It was also, I think, a very historic meeting. We were joined by the UN Special Representative Jan Kubis, and also by the UK ambassador here to Iraq, Ambassador Frank Baker. And, of course, we had on our side Ambassador Doug Silliman, and our Consul General, Ken Gross.
And I just want to extend our gratitude for the tremendous job that our American team is doing here on the ground in Erbil and also in Baghdad.
So, obviously, with President Barzani and in all of these engagements, we discussed a number of issues that are on the horizon, including the scheduled referendum, which is scheduled for September 25th. We did, of course, reiterate the position of the United States, that this referendum is ill timed and ill advised. It is not something that we can support. That is not simply our position. That is the position of our entire international coalition. So I don’t have to go into all of those details; they have been discussed many times.
I think, most importantly, we had a very, very positive and constructive discussion about a potential alternative path to the referendum. And this was a discussion, again, the United States, the United Nations, the UK, representing all of the partners here of the Kurdistan Region, so many partners of Iraq to talk about a potential alternative path.
And I think President Barzani and his team issued a statement after the meeting noting that this was a very constructive discussion, which it was. I think he welcomed the constructive discussion. That was stated. And also about this alternative that was presented. We understand that this decision is not his alone. This is a decision that has to be made by all the political leaders here in the Kurdistan Region.
And so we would obviously very much encourage the political leaders here in the Kurdistan Region to embrace this alternative path. It is a path focused on a sustained process of negotiation, dialogue, making sure we have a very serious effort through negotiation to resolve many of the outstanding issues that are confronting the region, and the central government in Baghdad.
And I might have to disappoint you because I’m not going to discuss the details of our diplomatic engagement. So I just want to say that they were very constructive, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to meet with so many leaders over the past two days. And I am hopeful that they will have follow-on discussions here over the coming days, and that they will be very fruitful.
Then I can take a couple questions.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ambassador Mr. McGurk, (inaudible). Do you think the objection of U.S. Government to the Kurdistan referendum for independence is in contrary of basic elements of liberty and democracy of the United States?
And my question has another part. The U.S. Ambassador told the Kurdish Party if you hold the referendum it would cause to have conflicts with Hashid Shaabi. Does the United States want to pressure Kurdistan in this way?
MR. MCGURK: We don’t want to see any conflict like that. We want to see a united focus on the war against Daesh, which, again, is not over. I think it’s very important that we had these meetings today between Iraqi commanders, Peshmerga commanders about the upcoming operation in Hawija, which will be a very, very difficult battle. It’s an essential battle. Daesh remains – they have a headquarters sitting in Hawija, just south of here. We have to make sure that that is rooted out in a smart way.
On the referendum, I’ll just say, look, I get this question a lot, the United States. I have to – there is no international support for the referendum, really, from anybody. To have the legitimate process, you want to have observers, you want to have the United Nations, you want to have international legitimacy. And there is no international legitimacy for this process. That could be because of the timeline that was put on, it could be for a number of reasons. But where we are is that heading into a referendum on September 25th there is no prospect for any sense of international legitimacy to this process.
So, therefore, that path is a very risky one, and we’ve made that point very clear. And again, this is not just the United States’ position, it’s the position of the entire international coalition that I help lead. All these countries have come to us and said, you know, they do not support this.
So I think there is a reason for that. And so we have obviously worked very hard with our partners and with the leaders here in the Kurdistan Region and in Baghdad on an alternative path. And so we are very hopeful that that path can be embraced, because the path forward right now is a very risky one.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) In your discussion with Mr. Barzani, have you proposed any date for referendum, or you proposed until when the referendum should be postponed or delayed? I mean do you have any preferred date?
MR. MCGURK: No. We discussed a process that would be a very intense process to resolve many of the outstanding issues that have to be resolved on all sides through a process of negotiation. And so, again, I don’t want to get into the details here. This is a decision for the Kurdistan leadership of the Kurdistan Region, and they will have those discussions here very soon.
And again, I think it is a very well-prepared alternative. It’s not just the United States, it’s the United Nations that’s speaking, it’s some of your closest partners and friends. And I think it is a very good alternative and something that can help not only diffuse some of the tense environment that we’re seeing right now, but also ensure lasting stability, not only here in the Kurdistan Region, but also south of here. And that is really what we need in the post-ISIS phase.
We do not want to give any space for extremist groups on any side to return. And so we’re working with all sides, all political leaders, to find an alternative path. And we think we have a pretty good one now on the table.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) There were stories that the (inaudible) parliament can should be open for today, and then postponed for tomorrow. And there are stories that it can be postponed for another day. Do you have – have you discussed with President Barzani when the parliament should be restarted?
MR. MCGURK: So the parliament here in the Kurdistan Region has not met in almost 22 months. And I think that’s indicative of some of the political disagreements that have been ongoing here in the region.
Obviously, it’s been our longstanding position we want the parliament to return. We think the parliament should be activated. We think all political parties should participate in the parliamentary process. I understand there are active discussions now among the political leaders about reactivating parliament. Obviously, that’s something we very much encourage.
And when the parliament does come back, we hope it can be an environment in which the parties begin to work together to resolve and address many of the important issues confronting the Kurdistan Region.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Is that true, that you gave three options to KRG? One of them, if the referendum goes in Kirkuk and other regions, the U.S. will stop supporting the KRG?
MR. MCGURK: Yeah, not going to talk about our internal discussions, but we talked about a number of hypothetical scenarios. Obviously, there are worst-case scenarios all the time, and we want to avoid those. Everybody wants to avoid those types of scenarios. I am confident that we will.
All I can say is there is an alternative now on the table. President Barzani, when I was here with Secretary Mattis, was very clear. We’re looking for alternative options that can be acceptable by all the parties. And we’ve worked very hard with the leadership in Baghdad and with the leadership here and with our friends in the United Nations and with our friends France, UK, critical partners, to come up with an alternative. And we believe that there is a very good alternative path now on the table.
For Kirkuk to be secure, and for Saladin Province to be secure long term we have to get ISIS out of Hawija. And, obviously, those plans are under development, and I won’t get ahead of the process. But that’s a very intense focus of ours, and we want to make sure that nothing that happens here could jeopardize those operations, because we have to get ISIS out of Hawija.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) To what extent you think the Kurdish (inaudible) accept your alternative, and are you expecting them to answer you very soon? Or what you are expecting from the Kurdish leadership, or the meetings can go on for a long time?
MR. MCGURK: Well, we would encourage all parties to make decisions very soon, because, obviously, there is an issue of the calendar year. And I think there is two paths. There is a path to the referendum. We see that path as extraordinarily problematic, for all the reasons that we have discussed many times. I don’t have to again go into all the details here.
And again, I know a lot of – I get the question a lot, the United States this and that. This is not just about the United States. It is nearly every country that cares a lot about Iraq and about the Kurdistan Region has the exact same position. Obviously, one of your critical neighbors, Turkey, had a statement today about the referendum. So that is a path. The reality is that there is just no international support or legitimacy for that path.
So again, we’ve worked very hard with all the leaders in a spirit of cooperation and compromise, and I think we’ve come up with an alternative that can help avoid the risks along that path.
And again, I’m obviously not going to discuss all the details that were discussed in these meetings, but the meetings were very fruitful, they were very constructive, and there are now decisions to be made by the leadership of the Kurdistan Region, and we obviously encourage them to deliberate very seriously and very – as rapid a timeframe as possible, because it’s really decision time.
QUESTION: Excuse me. If PRG won’t accept the alternative, what is – will be your reaction?
MODERATOR: I don’t think we have time for a second question.
MR. MCGURK: Again, we’ve walked through with the leaders here all the potential scenarios. And again, it’s not just the United States. Many actors in the region will react to different paths. And that’s something that has to be taken into consideration.
We, as the United States, have our position. We cannot support this referendum for a series of reasons. We’ve made that very clear now for a number of months. But the spirit of the discussions we’ve had here over the last few days was about an alternative. And so, we’re very hopeful that this alternative offers a positive way forward for all sides – for Erbil, for Sulaymaniyah, for Baghdad – so that we can come out of this ISIS conflict in a spirit that helps stabilize the situation after.
And I’ll just give one anecdote. You know, in the Battle of Mosul I went to a hospital here in Erbil – I’ve discussed this before, but I was in hospital rooms with Iraqi soldiers recovering from wounds right next to Peshmerga heroes, and talking about the battle, and how they’re fighting a common enemy as brothers. And that is the spirit that we really need to come out of this post-ISIS phase with stability. And for stability and prosperity here in the Kurdistan Region, you have to have relations, positive relations, with Baghdad. It’s just a necessity.
So the spirit of our discussions in Sulaymaniyah, in Erbil, and in Dahuk was about how we can move down a path of negotiation and dialogue that benefits everybody coming out of this very difficult and terrible war.
And so, again, on behalf of all the families who suffered so much in this conflict against ISIS, I just want to extend our condolences for the losses. You’re really fighting on behalf of all of us. We Americans and our coalition partners have also suffered losses in this campaign. We’re in it together. It is not over. This war is not over. And that’s a critical message we had for everybody.
And so, to make sure that we continue to take the fight to ISIS, to make sure their defeat is a lasting one and has stability afterwards, we had very constructive discussions with all the leaders about an alternative, and it’s one that we very much hope they will embrace.
Thank you very much.
The Growing Power of Water in Syria.
Samuel Northrup is a research assistant in the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
September 12, 2017
Syria’s economic and political stability have long been predicated on a grand bargain of water access. Since Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970, the Syrian government has manipulated public access to water for political ends. The regime uses water to buy and maintain loyalty, intimidate opponents, and fracture insurgencies, all in an effort to suppress and control the populace. While water has always been politicized in Syria, access to drinking and irrigation water will become an ever more powerful tool of the Assad government as global climate change exacerbates water scarcity in the Mediterranean.
Water and Loyalty
The Assad family legitimated its rule partly by strategically providing benefits to the country’s diverse population. In the semi-arid country, water was fundamental, and its infrastructure – wells and irrigation systems – was designed to reward loyalty. Access to water played a particularly large role in buying the loyalty of Sunni farmers in the country’s north-eastern provinces. Since the beginning of his rule in 1970, Assad pursued agricultural self-sufficiency, winning the loyalty of rural farmers by propping up their livelihoods. The push for food independence was so aggressive that by the time Bashar al-Assad inherited power from his father in 2000, agriculture used almost 90 percent of the country’s water. Irrigation systems expanded rapidly, covering 1.35 million hectares by 2010, from only 651,000 hectares just two and half decades prior. As a result, by the time the Arab Spring reached Syria, approximately 40 percent of the Syrians’ livelihoods were connected to agriculture.
Access to water was also used in the Syrian government’s vast patronage system, individually benefiting those loyal to the Assad Ba’athist government. A 2006 study by Ellie al-Hadj found that families with close ties to the regime, roughly indicated by their homes’ proximity to Damascus, enjoyed greater freedom to dig independent, unregistered wells. Approximately 87% of water wells in the Damascus region were unlicensed, whereas across the rest of the country only 38 percent of wells were unlicensed. Additionally, legal requirements were more strictly enforced outside of the Damascus region. While 25% of illegal wells across the country were regularized by the government from 1998 to 2000, only 11 percent of illegal wells were regularized in the Damascus region during the same time period. Al-Hadj interprets these disparities to mean that the greater a family’s loyalty to and connections within the regime, the greater that family’s freedom to drill wells and access ground water.
Water in Conflict
Before Syria produced war refugees, it produced climate refugees, breaking the precarious bargain that brought stability for four decades. In the five years leading up to the civil war, Syria experienced one of the worst droughts on instrumental record. If water was a currency of loyalty, the Assad government soon found itself bankrupt. Water shortages killed upwards of 85 percent of livestock in eastern Syria, while average yield of basic crops fell by as much as 23 percent in irrigated areas and 79 percent in rain-fed areas. The resulting economic disruption impacted 1.3 million Syrians, destroyed the livelihoods of 800,000, and forced tens of thousands of rural Syrians to move to shantytowns on the outskirts of Damascus, Aleppo, and Hama. By 2009, UN agencies reported that 60-70 percent of villages in Hasakah Province and the Khabour Riverbed had been entirely deserted.
The effects of the drought were exacerbated by extensive corruption and mismanagement. In Jub Shaeer, outside of Raqqa, olive and citrus trees still grew on the estates of regime loyalists who had the privilege to maintain access to illegal wells, even as their neighbors fled the drought for the slums outside the western cities.
When protests escalated into armed conflict in late 2011, the Islamic State, rebel factions, and the Syrian regime all used water access as a military weapon. In early 2012, rebel forces seized control of the Ain al-Fijeh natural spring, the primary source of drinking water for many loyalist neighborhoods in Damascus. Over the next several years, rebels successfully deterred regime advances by threatening to cut water services to the capital. In July 2015, the rebel Wadi Barada Shura Council halted all water-services to Damascus in retaliation for the regime’s attacks on Zabadani. A year later, rebel forces again cut off water to Damascus after regime forces seized the village of Harira in an effort to control alternative water sources in Basima and Efra. After drawn out negotiations and fighting, the regime eventually retook the water source in early 2017.
Similarly, the Syrian regime has deprived opposition-held areas of potable water and other essential goods in a brutal counter-insurgency method. By laying sieges and depriving the population in opposition-held areas of basic necessities like potable water, the regime intended to sap rebels’ popular support. Additionally, the regime sought to maintain its monopoly on providing public services. In August 2017, the UN estimated that 540,000 civilians are living in besieged areas, without access to adequate food, water, and healthcare. In late 2016, before the fall of Aleppo, the number of besieged civilians stood at nearly one million.
Just as the regime predicated water access on loyalty before the war, it will likely continue to do so throughout reconstruction. Current academic discussions have begun to recognize that reconstruction will determine Syria’s political dynamics for decades to come. Yezid Sayigh argues that unless the international community rethinks its development paradigm, reconstruction will only serve to further entrench those already in power. Additionally, Omer Karasapan warns that politicized reconstruction will reify the old ethnic, confessional, and class divisions already exacerbated by the civil war.
Local reporting indicates that the regime may already be slanting reconstruction towards its political goals. Kheder Khadour of the Carnegie Middle East Center explains that while the Syrian Foreign Ministry authorized 100 local NGOs in 2014 to work with the United Nations to implement reconstruction and humanitarian projects, all are controlled by regime sympathizers. Some analysts already suspect the regime of deliberately using reconstruction to engineer the country’s demographic makeup and demolish opposition strongholds. For example, the regime has begun demolishing homes in the historically opposition-affiliated Damascus neighborhood of Basateen al-Razi to make way for new housing, shopping, and office complexes. Such discriminatory reconstruction practices will inevitably involve water infrastructure. Before the war, Syria had upwards of 260 water sector assets such as water towers and treatment facilities; by 2016, a quarter had been damaged. That estimate, however, does not include damage to underground pipelines, which have likely sustained significantly greater damage.
Over the coming decades, water scarcity in the region will worsen due to climate change, increasing the Syrian regime’s leverage over its people. Rainfall has been decreasing in the region for decades, while droughts are expected to become ever more common. In addition to long term drying, recent research, conducted as a part of NASA’s ongoing efforts to model climate change, concludes that the drought is likely the region’s worst dry spell in nine centuries.
While academics have correctly argued that the Syrian civil war cannot be solely attributed to climate change, it is clear that water will play a major role in determining state behavior for decades to come. Water has always been political in Syria, and water scarcity will continue to exacerbate political, economic, and social pressures within the region. Western policy makers must understand that water is becoming a major source of leverage in the Mediterranean and that it would be wise to work with regional governments to establish equitable, efficient, and sustainable water policies.
Fikra Forum is an initiative of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The views expressed by Fikra Forum contributors are the personal views of the individual authors, and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute, its staff, Board of Directors, or Board of Advisors.
Wall Street Journal: As ISIS Falters, U.S. Allies and Syrian Regime Maneuver for Advantage
The contest is playing out in Deir Ezzour, the last Syrian province largely under the extremists’ control
A fighter with U.S.-backed forces in Syria kept watch near a frontline with Islamic State.
Sept. 18, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET
Maria Abi-Habib and Maria Abi-Habib Raja Abdulrahim in Beirut and Raja Abdulrahim Nathan Hodge in Okeirbat, Syria.
In the last Syrian province largely under Islamic State control, U.S.-backed forces are on a collision course with the Syrian and Russian militaries as both sides scramble to strengthen their hands ahead of postwar negotiations.
The contest for territory is playing out in Deir Ezzour, an oil-rich province where Islamic State has fought to protect its revenue streams and preserve what remains of its rapidly shrinking caliphate.
The Damascus-based Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, wants Deir Ezzour’s resources to repair a shattered economy and replenish its coffers by exporting oil. It could also help Tehran establish a route over land to Beirut to support its Lebanese allies.
The U.S.-backed forces, who are led by Kurds, are also fighting Islamic State but wary of giving ground to the Syrian regime. Kurdish leaders want to use the province’s wealth as a bargaining chip that could help them secure greater autonomy in Syria.
“The Kurds are trying to get as many cards in their hands as possible for the time when everyone sits around the table to play the big game. The scorecards that everyone will be looking at when they sit around the table and think, ‘Who has the most and can ask for the most?” said a senior Western diplomat who is based in the Middle East and focused on the Syria conflict.
With these different armed groups closing in on Deir Ezzour, forces backed by the U.S. and Russia are sometimes fighting within a few miles of each other, raising the risk of missteps that could inflame tensions.
On Saturday, Russian military forces attacked a location in Deir Ezzour east of the Euphrates River where they knew troops from the U.S.-led coalition and allied Syrian rebels were operating, the U.S. military said.
The strike injured several members of the U.S.-backed group, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to a statement from the U.S.-led coalition. The statement added that the U.S. would seek talks with its Russian counterparts to avoid future conflicts.
The incident is the latest of several where different sides fighting Islamic State have collided in Syria. In June, the U.S. military downed a Syrian government warplane after it had attacked Syrian Democratic Forces on the ground.
Western diplomats representing countries closely allied with the U.S. say that Washington’s plans in Syria are unclear and it lacks a longer-term strategic objective beyond driving Islamic State from Raqqa, the de facto Syrian capital of its self-declared caliphate.
“The U.S. knows what it’s doing in…the short term,” said a Western diplomat. “First Raqqa and then let’s see.”
The U.S. military said Sunday it was working with its allies in Syria to defeat Islamic State and agreeing with Moscow on ways to avoid the risk of conflict “while ensuring physical separation between regime and antiregime forces.”
Even as Washington and Moscow discuss ways to avoid clashes in Syria, Russian forces continue to support the Syrian regime’s march on Deir Ezzour.
The Russian military provided extensive air support to Syrian government forces during their lightning advance on Deir Ezzour. And this past week, Russia’s defense ministry launched a major public-relations offensive to capitalize on those gains by the central government.
Russian military helicopters ferried international news crews to Deir Ezzour on Friday, capturing scenes of life returning to a semblance of normalcy in government-held areas of the provincial capital, also known as Deir Ezzour.
The Russian military also brought reporters to Okeirbat, a town in central Syria that was recaptured from Islamic State militants at the beginning of the month, enabling the government advance.
The town, emptied of inhabitants, still bore signs of heavy fighting, including airstrikes that had penetrated concrete warehouses Islamic State fighters used for maintaining captured tanks and converting armored vehicles into massive suicide bombs, Russian military officials said.
Lt. Gen. Alexander Lapin, chief of staff of Russian forces in Syria, told journalists that Syrian government forces, supported by Russian air power, engaged in house-to-house fighting to dislodge fighters from fortified positions and a network of underground tunnels.
“A key breakthrough took place here in the fight against ISIS,” he said, referring to Islamic State. “The successful and decisive offensive on Deir Ezzour began from here.”
Over the past two months, the U.S. has pushed for a deconfliction line along the Euphrates River to coordinate the separate battles to retake Islamic State-held territory in Deir Ezzour. Washington has reached agreement with its Russian counterparts on deconfliction in other parts of Syria.
The talks between Washington and Moscow stalled, according to a U.S. official, and earlier this month Damascus and its allies advanced into Deir Ezzour city.
Days later, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the U.S. military, pushed south to box in regime forces, potentially cutting off Damascus and Moscow from advancing further east, toward the Iraqi border and the province’s lucrative oil fields.
Delsos Derrik, an SDF commander involved in the push along the Euphrates River, said his forces hadn’t expected to advance into Deir Ezzour province until Raqqa had been fully captured. But they didn’t trust the regime to remain west of the river.
“For that reason we have advanced in order to block them,” Mr. Derrik said.
Russia’s Gen. Lapin declined to answer a question on possible coordination or deconfliction with the SDF and the Americans in Deir Ezzour.
Syria’s Kurdish minority has used the country’s multisided civil war to carve out a semiautonomous region in Syria’s north while mostly avoiding conflict with Damascus and its allies on the battlefield.
The Kurdish minority is now scrambling for as much territory as it can effectively hold to increase leverage in any postwar negotiations, according to Western diplomats. In Deir Ezzour province, the Kurdish presence is negligible but the oil fields are seen as one of the biggest prizes left to be conquered in Syria as Islamic State’s hold weakens.
That has left the Kurds and the Damascus government separated only by the Euphrates River, now about 2 miles apart. The U.S.-led coalition recently said it wouldn’t move into Deir Ezzour city, on the western side of the Euphrates.
It isn’t yet clear whether Washington and Moscow and can reach an agreement to allow the Kurdish-led forces to take the lead and recapture the province’s oil fields. If no agreement is reached, diplomats say, the situation could devolve into a race to seize Syria’s oil assets.
“There is no grand deconfliction plan,” a Western diplomat said.
COLUMN-Mission accomplished? OPEC banishes contango: John Kemp – Reuters News
John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own
By John Kemp
LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – “There is no doubt that the oil market is moving in the right direction,” the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries noted with satisfaction in its most recent bulletin published on Wednesday.
“The rebalancing process was never going to happen overnight; it was never going to happen in a linear fashion; and it was always going to require a concerted effort,” OPEC observed.
“Patience and perseverance are still required”, the bulletin warned, but the organisation is well on the way to achieving the objectives it set when announcing output cuts in November 2016.
Reported oil inventories in the advanced economies have begun to decline towards their five-year average while oil stored at sea and in remote locations has also fallen sharply.
Contango, a symptom of an oversupplied market, has gradually disappeared from most crude markets to be replaced by backwardation, a sign of tightness
OPEC has often stated that it wants to see the contango narrow as part of the rebalancing process.
Contango enables traders to profit from storing crude in excess of their immediate operational requirements by selling oil for deferred delivery at prices above the spot market.
So its disappearance has coincided with an accelerated draw down in inventories held in floating storage and in onshore tanks.
Crude in floating storage has fallen by 30 million barrels since the start of the year, according to industry sources surveyed by OPEC.
Paris-based cargo tracking firm Kpler estimates floating storage has fallen sharply in recent weeks to the lowest level for more than two years.
Oil traders are also emptying one of the world’s largest onshore crude storage facilities at Saldanha Bay in South Africa, according to Bloomberg.
Global crude stocks are gradually being drawn towards the major refining centres as the surplus inherited from 2015-2016 is absorbed.
OPEC’s efforts to rebalance the market have been assisted by exceptionally strong growth in oil consumption in the last three years since prices slumped in 2014.
World oil demand has been stimulated by the fall in prices and a synchronised economic expansion in most major consuming countries outside the Middle East.
Global consumption is forecast to increase by 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2017, after rising by 1.3 million bpd in 2016 and 1.9 million bpd in 2015, according to the International Energy Agency.
Stocks of refined products have tightened, especially for middle distillates such as U.S. heating oil and European gasoil.
Distillate exports from the United States have boomed to meet strong demand from Latin America and other emerging markets.
As a result, U.S. distillate stocks have fallen by 24 million barrels since the start of the year, compared with a normal seasonal rise of 6 million barrels.
Stocks started the year 26 million barrels above the 10-year average but are now 5 million barrels below it and 24 million barrels below the corresponding period in 2016.
With La Niña conditions forecast, which could bring colder weather and more heating demand in the north of the United States between December and February, the U.S. distillate market appears tight.
Refineries in the United States and elsewhere will have to process record quantities of crude in the next few months to stabilise inventories and meet the demand for fuel.
Oil prices have been haltingly moving from contango towards backwardation since early 2015 and certainly since the start of 2016, reflecting the long and winding road to rebalancing.
The shift away from contango to backwardation has accelerated notably since July, most likely in response to Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it would curb exports even further in August and September.
Brent futures prices have traded in a sustained backwardation for the first time since oil prices started slumping in July 2014.
Brent’s backwardation, initially confined to the contracts nearest expiry, now extends throughout the whole of next year.
Oman futures, an important benchmark for Asia, are also trading in a pronounced backwardation for 2017 and 2018.
The only major crude still trading in contango is the U.S. light sweet futures contract (WTI), where the contango has narrowed but shows no sign of disappearing yet.
Speculative buying from hedge funds and other traders has probably anticipated and accelerated the shift from contango to backwardation in Brent since the summer.
So the surging backwardation is vulnerable to a correction if and when some of those speculative buyers try to sell some of their positions.
But the basic shift away from contango to backwardation has been underway for more than two years and mirrors previous rebalancing periods in 1998-2000 and 2009-2011.
Even if there is a temporary setback, the basic direction of travel towards backwardation should remain intact, provided OPEC continues to restrain its production.
(Editing by Mark Potter)
Senior Market Analyst
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