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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 81/No. 41      November 6, 2017



Available Online
(front page)

Rallies hit Iraq, Iran attacks against Kurds

Washington gave green light to assault

Elizabeth Fitt/SOPA/ZumaWire via Alamy
Kurds who fled Kirkuk after assault by Tehran-backed Iraqi forces protest at U.S. Consulate in Erbil, Oct. 20. Washington, Tehran, Baghdad, Ankara all oppose Kurdish independence.
The fight of the Kurdish people in Iraq for national independence faces further war moves by the Iraqi army and Tehran-allied militias. The Kurds also face economic sanctions and military threats from the Turkish, Iranian and Syrian governments, as Washington continues to give the opponents of the Kurds a green light to move against them.

Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani Oct. 21 called for worldwide protests to back “the oppressed voice and peaceful message of the Kurdistan Region.”

Actions the same day at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, protested the attacks. There have also been demonstrations in London, Stockholm, across Canada and in the U.S.

“We urge working people in the U.S. and around the world to help initiate and join protests in defense of the Kurdish people’s struggle,” Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of New York, told the press Oct. 18. The SWP “demands Baghdad withdraw from all of the Kurdish homeland.”

“In the last 48 hours, Iraq has continued to deploy tanks and artillery, as well as American equipment, including Humvees and Armored Personnel Carriers,” the Kurdistan Region Security Council stated Oct. 23. “Iraq has shown zero signs of de-escalating their military aggression against the people of the Kurdistan Region.”

In the face of the assaults — and the collusion of Washington — the government of Kurdistan offered concessions Oct. 24, seeking to bring the war moves to a halt. “We are all obliged to act responsibly in order to prevent further violence and clashes between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces,” the KRG said.

They proposed “an immediate ceasefire and halt to all military operations in the Kurdistan Region,” to “freeze the results of the referendum conducted in Iraqi Kurdistan,” and to start a dialogue with the Iraqi government “on the basis of the Constitution.”

The Iraqi government claims the constitution, which was written with “help” from Washington, forbids Kurdish independence.

Numerous articles in the bourgeois press in the U.S. and elsewhere blame the Kurds for the attacks, claiming that the Sept. 25 referendum with its overwhelming vote for an independent Kurdistan was a provocation and a “miscalculation” by Barzani.

“It might be the best possible thing that can happen for the Kurdistan region is for Masoud to stand down,” the Wall Street Journal quotes an unnamed “Western diplomat” as saying Oct. 25.

But the bourgeois regimes in the region — and Washington — have always opposed Kurdish self-determination, referendum or not. Some 30 million Kurds are divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey — the largest nation in the world without its own state.

Washington has relied on Kurdish military forces as their most dependable and disciplined combatants in the fight against Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

But with the expulsion of Islamic State from Mosul, Iraq, in July and from Raqqa, Syria, in October, it was only a matter of time before the governments of Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria — with the green light from Washington — would go after the Kurds.

Gains for Tehran
The biggest gains so far in both Syria and Iraq have been made by Tehran. The Iranian regime is fighting to gain both a loyal and dependent ally in Baghdad as well as a land route connecting their forces from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon to increase its power and influence in the region.

This is why Tehran has sent militia forces and its ally Hezbollah to help spearhead a drive by the government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to seize territory in Deir al-Zour province leading to the Iraqi border.

While Washington would like to prevent Tehran from making further gains, it is even more fearful of the consequences for imperialism of an independent Kurdistan.

After affirming Washington’s support for the “territorial integrity” of Iraq, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Tehran on Oct. 22 to pull its forces out of the country. A little late, given that the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces — the Iranian-led Hashd al-Shaabi — had already been key to Iraqi moves to retake Kirkuk and most of the “disputed” Kurdish areas outside the formal boundaries of the Kurdish Autonomous Region. The Hashd al-Shaabi was responsible for abuse against Kurdish civilians, including looting and burning homes and businesses.

The assault on Kirkuk and other Kurdish towns was made easier by divisions within the parties that make up the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The peshmerga commanders in charge of the defense of Kirkuk ordered their fighters to withdraw without a fight as Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi troops approached. These commanders were members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a Kurdish party that opposes Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party. While both parties supported the referendum, a wing of the PUK disagreed, and then ordered the abandonment of Kirkuk.

The Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported that “Kurdish civilians pelted the retreating Peshmerga with rocks as they left Kirkuk. Video showed brave PUK Peshmerga weeping at the orders their superiors had given them.”

Heavy fighting took place Oct. 20 in Altun Kupri, the last Kurdish town on the road from Kirkuk to Erbil, the region’s capital. U.S.-trained Counter-Terrorism Service units and Federal Police joined with Hashd al-Shaabi in the attack.

The peshmerga said they destroyed two U.S. manufactured tanks, an armored vehicle and more than 12 Humvees. The Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga said Oct. 22 that large numbers of people were volunteering to join the peshmerga.

Rudaw reported that peshmerga beat back attacks by Hashd al-Shaabi and the Iraqi army near Rabia, on the Syrian border, and Makhmour, south of Erbil Oct. 24.

Alghad Press reports the peshmerga pulled back from Makhmour the next day. A “source within the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service” told the paper that government troops and Tehran-backed militia were now moving to take the Faysh Khabur border crossing that connects the KRG with Turkey. This crossing lies next to the pipeline that carries oil from Kurdistan to a port in Turkey.

“The Kurdistan nation with the power of the brave ones, sooner or later, will eventually reach its right and sacred objectives,” Kurdish President Barzani said Oct. 17.
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