Referendum is a negotiating tactic, says Iraqi Kurd official

An Iraqi man sews a flag of Kurdistan bearing the portrait of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region will hold a historic referendum on statehood in September, despite opposition to independence from Baghdad and possibly beyond. (AFP file photo)
Updated 16 July 2017
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Referendum is a negotiating tactic, says Iraqi Kurd official

TEHRAN: A top Tehran-based official from Iraq’s Kurdish government has said its planned independence referendum is really a negotiating tactic to pressure Baghdad into meeting promises on energy and power-sharing.
Nazem Dabbagh, who represents the Kurdistan Regional Government in Tehran, also said he feared that Iraqi forces would attack Kurdish positions now that the fight to retake Mosul from Daesh was over.
But he was adamant that the Iraqi Kurds would prefer to remain part of Iraq, despite calling a referendum on independence for Sept. 25.
“We are doing this (holding the referendum) to resolve our problems in Iraq. For now, we do not have the intention of separating,” Dabbagh said in an interview with AFP at his office in the Iranian capital.
“We don’t feel that Iraq accepts us. For this reason, we seek to use appropriate opportunities — through diplomacy, Parliament and the people — in order to demand our rights. If they (Iraq) don’t want to solve our problems, our people are ready to sacrifice.”
Dabbagh accused Baghdad of failing to meet several key promises outlined in the Iraqi constitution of 2005, including resolving the status of Kirkuk, a city on the border between the Kurds’ semi-autonomous region and the rest of Iraq.
He said Baghdad had also failed to ratify laws on oil revenues and funding for the Kurdish security forces, known as the Peshmerga, despite the latter’s crucial role in pushing back Daesh.
“I believe that a Baathist mentality still exists among some Iraqi leaders,” said Dabbagh, referring to the previous regime under Saddam Hussein.
“They don’t accept others. They always resort to military force to resolve problems.”


HRW: Egypt fight against Daesh threatens humanitarian crisis

Updated 23 April 2018
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HRW: Egypt fight against Daesh threatens humanitarian crisis

  • Human Rights Watch said the offensive has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid
  • Daesh group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt

BEIRUT: Egypt’s military operations against an affiliate of the Daesh group in North Sinai is threatening to spark a humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
The offensive launched on February 9 “has left up to 420,000 residents in four northeastern cities in urgent need of humanitarian aid,” said the New York-based organization.
The campaign “has included imposing severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in almost all of” North Sinai, HRW said in a report.
“Residents say they have experienced sharply diminished supplies of available food, medicine, cooking gas, and other essential commercial goods.”
The authorities conducting the campaign, dubbed “Sinai 2018,” have also banned the sale of gasoline for cars in the area “and cut telecommunication services for several days at a time,” the report said.
Human Rights Watch also said authorities had “cut water and electricity almost entirely in the most eastern areas of North Sinai, including Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed.”
“A counterterrorism operation that imperils the flow of essential goods to hundreds of thousands of civilians is unlawful and unlikely to stem violence,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director.
“The Egyptian army’s actions border on collective punishment,” she added.
Since the launch of the offensive, the military has distributed images of forces providing humanitarian assistance to people living in the area.
According to the military, residents support the campaign and many have come forward with useful information to help the authorities neutralize the militants.
Security forces have stepped up efforts to quell attacks by an Egyptian militant group that later declared allegiance to Daesh since Islamist president Muhammad Mursi was deposed in 2013. Mursi was forced out by the military, following mass protests against him.
The group has killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in its North Sinai stronghold but also elsewhere in Egypt.
More than 100 militant and at least 30 soldiers have been killed in the ongoing operation, according to army figures.