Kurdish leaders will decide on referendum in two days, Arab News told

Kurds hold a rally at the Martyrs Square in Beirut on Sept. 17, 2017 in support of next week's Kurdish referendum in Iraq. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Updated 18 September 2017
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Kurdish leaders will decide on referendum in two days, Arab News told

JEDDAH: Kurdish leaders will decide in the next two days whether to postpone this month’s controversial independence referendum, a leading political figure from Irbil told Arab News on Sunday.
A Kurdish delegation will travel to Baghdad to assess what is on offer from the Iraqi government. “Only after studying the various options will the Kurdish leadership be able to make a decision on postponing it,” former MP Mahmoud Othman said.
“There are ongoing contacts between the Kurdish leadership and Baghdad and we will see final results in the next two days.
“With so much pressure from Baghdad, the US, Turkey and Iran, it will not be easy to go ahead with the vote. The Kurds will have to rethink their position.”
Othman dismissed a proposal on Saturday by Iraqi President Fuad Masum, himself a Kurd.
“Nobody listens to him,” he said. “His is a ceremonial position. He does not carry weight. The real power and decision-making is with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.”
He said the Kurds were in a difficult position and the leadership was to blame for not having studied the pros and cons before deciding to go ahead with the referendum.
“They did not anticipate the massive opposition to the referendum decision; they should have thought about how the major countries would respond. Obviously the Kurdish leadership did not do that.”
Othman said the Kurdish people were all in favor of the referendum. “Now, if the vote is canceled, the people will be demoralized and that is why I say the leadership should have thought about all this beforehand.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Al-Abadi this week to discuss their concerns about the referendum.
Turkey, the US and other Western powers have advised authorities in the semi-autonomous region to cancel the vote, worrying that tensions it would generate might be an unwelcome distraction from the war on Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
With the largest Kurdish population in the region, Turkey also fears that a “Yes” vote would fuel separatism in its southeast, where militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged an insurgency for three decades.
Ankara and Baghdad have the same view of the referendum, Erdogan said before leaving for New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
“We will have a meeting with Mr. Abadi in the United States, and from what we can see our goal is the same. Our goal is not dividing Iraq,” he said.
Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said on Friday the referendum would go ahead as planned on Sept. 25. Erdogan said the Turkish government had therefore brought forward planned national security council and Cabinet meetings to Sept. 22, after which Turkey would announce its position on the issue.
Turkey has good relations with Barzani’s administration, founded on strong economic links and shared suspicions of other Kurdish groups and Iraq’s central government.
The Kurdish Regional Government, led by Barzani’s KDP party, exports hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day via Turkey to world markets.


Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

A handout photo released by Iraq's Prime Minister's Media Office on January 20, 2019 shows Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (C) during his trip to the southern city of Basra. (AFP)
Updated 28 min 8 sec ago
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Iraqi PM faces protests over power shortages and graft

  • Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s exclusion from US sanctions on Iran and allowing it to import gas and electricity will not ease the pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government, Iraqi politicians and officials told Arab News on Sunday.
Mass demonstrations are planned for later this week in the Shiite-dominated southern provinces to protest about the lack of basic daily services including electricity and drinking water, high rates of unemployment and corruption in ministries and government departments, activists told Arab News.
Iranian energy and natural gas imports amount to about 4,000 megawatts per day, equivalent to 20 percent of Iraq’s total production.
The US three-month extension waiver allowing Iraq to import Iranian gas and electricity is expected to dampen some of the anger and give Abdul Mahdi’s government a chance to find more radical solutions to the electricity shortage caused by terrorist actions, lack of planning and government corruption over the past 15-16 years.
People in Basra plan to take to the streets on July 20, activists told Arab News.
“Unemployment, scarcity of electricity and potable water and corruption are all still in place and none have been addressed despite the fact we have been protesting every year,” Sheikh Raied Al-Fraijai, the head of Basra tribal council and one of the Basra’s key activists, told Arab News.
“We will demand the dismissal of Abdul Mahdi and his government,” he said.
Electricity supply from the national grid does not exceed a 12-hour-a-day average during the summer, when temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius. This is one of the most powerful engines of the demonstrations, which usually turn violent and lead to clashes between protesters and security forces.
Last summer demonstrations extended to most of the southern provinces and Baghdad. There were massive riots, especially in Basra and Amara, where government and party headquarters were set on fire, as well as the Iranian Consulate. At least 22 demonstrators and security personal were killed.
Controlling the demonstrations and preventing Iraqi political forces from exploiting them is one of the challenges facing both local governments and activists.
Security services in Basra were on high alert on Sunday after the circulation of an image of a leaflet with the slogan of Daesh on it calling for support for the protests and inciting demonstrators to attack members of the “Savage army,” a term used by Daesh to describe the Iraqi army.
“This game (the circulation of the leaflet) aims to give the necessary cover for the local government in Basra to target us,” an activist told Arab News.
“Now they (local officials) have a good pretext to come after us. They can easily say that we are belong to Daesh or just say these are aimed to provide the cover for sabotage and targeting security forces.”