Connect with us

Middle East News

New Kurdish PM makes Baghdad ties priority over independence

IRBIL: Two years after a failed independence bid plunged Iraq’s Kurdistan Region into months of instability, the new regional prime minister said his priority was strengthening ties with Baghdad, signaling dreams of self-rule should be put on hold. Masrour Barzani, sworn in as regional prime minister on Wednesday, told Reuters in an exclusive interview that under…

New Kurdish PM makes Baghdad ties priority over independence

IRBIL: Two years after a failed independence bid plunged Iraq’s Kurdistan Region into months of instability, the new regional prime minister said his priority was strengthening ties with Baghdad, signaling dreams of self-rule should be put on hold.

Masrour Barzani, sworn in as regional prime minister on Wednesday, told Reuters in an exclusive interview that under his leadership, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s focus would be to establish a “strong and constructive” relationship with Baghdad, leaving the question of independence aside for now.

“This (independence referendum) happened in the past and it’s a reflection of the enduring aspiration of a nation,” said Barzani, speaking at his palace in the hillside village of Salaheddine, near regional capital Irbil.

“However, the focus of my government will be how to build a stronger relationship and partnership with Baghdad,” he said, adding he would look to fix “those issues that were actually keeping us apart.”

The independence bid was led by Barzani’s father Masoud, who stepped down as Kurdish president in 2017 after the referendum backfired and prompted a military offensive from Baghdad.

At stake for the new premier are long-running disputes over independent oil exports, revenue sharing, security, and territory which have plagued ties between Irbil and Baghdad since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Barzani was instrumental in orchestrating the September 2017 referendum, which was held over the objections of Baghdad and regional powers. It was seen as the culmination of years of oppositional politics by the semi-autonomous region.

The backlash was swift and pushed the country to the brink of civil war, threatening to undo the years of unprecedented autonomy the region had enjoyed. Relations eventually improved, cemented by a change of government in both capitals.

A ‘win-win situation’

The region’s oil exports have long been a source of contention with Baghdad. The Kurds, who control Iraq’s only northern pipeline, had been exporting oil independently since 2013. Exports were restarted in 2018, after a year-long freeze amid post-referendum disputes.

As part of the 2018 and 2019 budgets, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) agreed to send 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) to federal authorities in exchange for Baghdad paying civil servants’ salaries.

However, Iraqi officials, including the prime minister, complain that the KRG has not kept up its end of the bargain, having not sent a single barrel to Baghdad.

Barzani said negotiations on oil and gas were already underway and he sees room for “quick progress” on the file.

FASTFACT

At stake for the new premier are long-running disputes over independent oil exports, revenue sharing, security, and territory which have plagued ties between Irbil and Baghdad since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“There is great potential for a win-win situation,” he said. “Working together in cooperation with each other, we can increase the production of oil.” Mutual benefits for both sides is a theme Barzani echoed regarding regional security.

Nearly two years since Iraq declared victory against Daesh militants, the country has seen a deterioration in security in the areas bordering the Kurdistan Region.

Barzani, formerly the region’s security chief, said the threat from Daesh is not yet over. 

The group exploited the rift between the Kurds and Baghdad, he said, who fought side by side to defeat the militant group in 2017.

He is looking to establish a joint security mechanism in the so-called disputed territories, areas claimed by both Baghdad and Irbil, “to close that gap.”

Masrour is the latest Barzani to head the regional government. His father Masoud, himself the son of a veteran Kurdish leader, still holds considerable sway over its politics.

His cousin Nechirvan held the premiership until last month when he was sworn in as president, following a regional parliamentary election in September 2018.

Barzani said winning back hearts and minds was a leading priority, as was tackling graft. 

The Barzanis are one of two families that have dominated regional politics for decades. 

Though they enjoy continued support among their respective bases through extensive patronage networks, their continued grip on power has opened them up to allegations of mismanagement and corruption from voters, many of whom are owed years of back pay from the government.

“I’d like to see reform,” he said. “To make sure that people have more trust in the government.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

code

Middle East News

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday. Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras…

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday.

Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras Al-Ain, a key objective for Turkish troops.

“The Turkish aggression is using all available weapons against Ras Al-Ain,” the Kurdish administration said. “Faced with the obvious failure of his plan, Erdogan is resorting to weapons that are globally banned, such as phosphorus and napalm.”

Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Center for New American Security, told Arab News: “There are now multiple credible reports that Turkey has used white phosphorus munitions in its campaign in northeast Syria, and especially against the stubborn defenders of the city of Ras Al-Ain.”

The attacks on Ras Al-Ain are being investigated by UN chemical weapons inspectors, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Human Rights Watch. 

OPCW said it had “not yet determined the credibility of these allegations,” and its inspectors were monitoring the situation.

HIGHLIGHTS

Erdogan’s jets ‘dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus in Ras Al-Ain.’

The attacks are being probed by UN chemical weapons inspectors and Human Rights Watch.

A video posted on social media shows children with burns that a doctor says were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

If the use of banned incendiary weapons were proved, it would be a grave violation of Turkey’s pledge to wage war with concern for civilian lives, Heras said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been a spike in burn wounds treated at the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir, mostly casualties brought in from the Ras Al-Ain area. 

The Kurdish Red Crescent said at least six people were being treated in hospital for burns. 

Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns that one doctor in Hasakeh province said were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert, told the UK newspaper The Times that the burns appeared to have been caused by white phosphorus.

The substance may be used to create a smoke screen, or as a battlefield marker, especially at night, but its use as an incendiary weapon is prohibited under international law.

Since 1997, Turkey has been a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld, a senior fellow at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said the deployment of white phosphorus was not explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. 

However, he said, under humanitarian law “the use of means and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited.”

Continue Reading

Middle East News

Libya’s navy intercepts about 150 Europe-bound migrants

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday. Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras…

Libya’s navy intercepts about 150 Europe-bound migrants

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday.

Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras Al-Ain, a key objective for Turkish troops.

“The Turkish aggression is using all available weapons against Ras Al-Ain,” the Kurdish administration said. “Faced with the obvious failure of his plan, Erdogan is resorting to weapons that are globally banned, such as phosphorus and napalm.”

Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Center for New American Security, told Arab News: “There are now multiple credible reports that Turkey has used white phosphorus munitions in its campaign in northeast Syria, and especially against the stubborn defenders of the city of Ras Al-Ain.”

The attacks on Ras Al-Ain are being investigated by UN chemical weapons inspectors, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Human Rights Watch. 

OPCW said it had “not yet determined the credibility of these allegations,” and its inspectors were monitoring the situation.

HIGHLIGHTS

Erdogan’s jets ‘dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus in Ras Al-Ain.’

The attacks are being probed by UN chemical weapons inspectors and Human Rights Watch.

A video posted on social media shows children with burns that a doctor says were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

If the use of banned incendiary weapons were proved, it would be a grave violation of Turkey’s pledge to wage war with concern for civilian lives, Heras said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been a spike in burn wounds treated at the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir, mostly casualties brought in from the Ras Al-Ain area. 

The Kurdish Red Crescent said at least six people were being treated in hospital for burns. 

Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns that one doctor in Hasakeh province said were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert, told the UK newspaper The Times that the burns appeared to have been caused by white phosphorus.

The substance may be used to create a smoke screen, or as a battlefield marker, especially at night, but its use as an incendiary weapon is prohibited under international law.

Since 1997, Turkey has been a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld, a senior fellow at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said the deployment of white phosphorus was not explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. 

However, he said, under humanitarian law “the use of means and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited.”

Continue Reading

Middle East News

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

An electronics engineer in Cairo who looks like Mo Salah has revealed the highs and lows of being a dead ringer for the footballing superstar.Ahmed Bahaa is used to being mistaken for the Egyptian player because of the strong resemblance, and has even appeared as Salah in ad campaigns for cellphones and bottled water when…

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

An electronics engineer in Cairo who looks like Mo Salah has revealed the highs and lows of being a dead ringer for the footballing superstar.Ahmed Bahaa is used to being mistaken for the Egyptian player because of the strong resemblance, and has even appeared as Salah in ad campaigns for cellphones and bottled water when the player was unavailable.Fans take selfies with him, thinking they are standing next to their hero, and foreign TV channels ask him for interviews.But the 32-year-old revealed he could have been killed because of the physical similarities with the striker.He went to Arab League Street, one of the most crowded places in Cairo’s Mohandiseen area, to celebrate Egypt winning a soccer match. “People thought I was Salah and crowded around me. I couldn’t get out. The police saved me,” he told Arab News.Bahaa met Salah at his home once, with the engineer recalling how he was welcomed with warmth and hospitality. The pair took photographs together.“When I walk on the street, people think I’m Salah,” he said. “They ask to take pictures with me. They always call me Salah at work and public places, not Ahmed. Even my own kids sometimes call me Salah. When the Egyptian soccer team reached the World Cup, I ate, drank and took transportation, all for free, because I looked like Salah. Even when I went out with my wife and kids, a lot of people took photos with me.”

FASTFACT

Fans take selfies with him, thinking they are standing next to their hero, and foreign TV channels ask him for interviews.

There have been examples of mistaken identity in more unusual places too.“I once went to the British Embassy in Cairo to apply for a visa. All of a sudden the officers took me to a private room. They thought I was Salah and surrounded me while taking photos.”Salah joined Liverpool in 2017 and, according to transfermarkt, has a current market value of €150 million ($167 million). He has more than 10 million followers on Twitter and more than 33 million followers on Instagram, sharing candid shots of his life on and off the pitch. Bahaa, who has a more modest following on Instagram, is also a fan.“I used to be a soccer player but had to stop to focus on my work. I have loved Salah since I was young. He is a national symbol and international role model for all young people. I am happy that I look similar to Salah. It’s such a great honor. We look very similar if you compare the hair, chin, and smile.”The engineer added that he wanted to be a famous actor and make a film about Salah’s success story.

Continue Reading