Kurds’ statehood dream dies as Baghdad retakes oil fields

Flames emerge from flare stacks at the oil fields in Dibis area on the outskirts of Kirkuk, Iraq, on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. (REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani)
Updated 18 October 2017
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Kurds’ statehood dream dies as Baghdad retakes oil fields

BAGHDAD: Iraqi troops and allied Shiite-dominated paramilitary forces took control on Tuesday of all Kirkuk’s oil fields, dealt a crushing blow to fragmented Kurdish forces and redrew the map of northern Iraq.
The lightning two-day attack by Baghdad ended Kurdish hopes of creating a viable independent state, after Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew without a fight.
“The operation was clean and there was no confrontation, thanks to the Peshmerga troops who took a decision to not confront the Iraqi forces,” said Hadi Al-Amiri, commander of the Badr Organization, one of the Shiite paramilitary groups that took part in the campaign. A Yazidi group allied to Baghdad also took control of the town of Sinjar.
Iraqi forces took down the Kurdish flags that had flown over the pumping stations of the Bai Hassan and Havana oil fields, and raised the national flag. Kurdish technicians halted production and fled before federal troops entered.
The oil fields accounted for more than 400,000 of the 650,000 barrels per day that the autonomous Kurdish region exported in defiance of Baghdad. Their loss deals a huge blow to its already dire finances and its dreams of economic self-sufficiency.
French geographer and Kurdistan specialist Cyril Roussel said the loss of the oil fields had slashed Kurdish finances by half. “It spells the end of Kurdistan’s economic self-sufficiency and of the dream of independence,” he said.
Kurds in northern Iraq, including Kirkuk, voted overwhelmingly for independence last month in a referendum condemned by Baghdad as illegal and unconstitutional. The federal government responded with a series of punitive measures, culminating in the military attack of the past two days.
The referendum “is finished and has become a thing of the past,” Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday. He called for a dialogue with Kurdish leaders “under the constitution.”
Kurdish university lecturer Salar Othman Ameen blamed the Kurdish authorities for calling the independence referendum prematurely. “We feel broken now. The referendum was a catastrophic decision. Our Kurdish leadership was supposed to think of the consequences before moving along with the independence vote. Now we have lost what we have achieved over three decades.”
Defeat for the Kurds has led to recriminations among the two main Kurdish political parties. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of regional government leader Masoud Barzani accused the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of “treason” for abandoning Kirkuk. The PUK denied blame and said it had tried to prevent the attack in talks with US and Iraqi officials.

The recapture of Kirkuk is also a second triumph for Al-Abadi, months after his forces recaptured Mosul from Daesh. “If elections were held tomorrow, I would vote with 10 fingers for Al-Abadi. He succeeded in keeping Iraq a single state,” said Adel Abdul Kareem, a Baghdad lawyer.
“When Kurdish leaders were threatening Baghdad, Al-Abadi was always smiling. We did not expect he was hiding a tornado behind this smile. He proved he was a smart leader, and with his wisdom he won against Barzani with a knockout in the second round,” said Abdul Kareem.


Turkish court rejects Australia’s request to extradite Daesh recruiter

A Turkish soldier is seen in an armoured personnel carrier at a check point near the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis province, Turkey. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Turkish court rejects Australia’s request to extradite Daesh recruiter

  • Ties between Turkey and its allies fighting Daesh, particularly the United States, have been frayed by Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia
  • Australia had been pressing Turkey to extradite Prakash since he was first detained

SYDNEY: A Turkish court rejected an Australian request to extradite a citizen it believes is a top recruiter for the Daesh group, Australia’s foreign minister said on Friday, in a setback for Canberra’s efforts to prosecute him at home.
Melbourne-born Neil Prakash has been linked to several Australia-based attack plans and has appeared in Daesh videos and magazines. Australia has alleged that he actively recruited Australian men, women and children and encouraged acts of militancy.
“We are disappointed that the Kilis Criminal Court in Turkey has rejected the request to extradite Neil Prakash to Australia,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement.
“We will continue to engage with Turkish authorities as they consider whether to appeal the extradition decision,” she said.
Australia had been pressing Turkey to extradite Prakash since he was first detained there nearly two years ago.
Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported from Kilis that Prakash was initially ordered to be freed but was later charged under Turkish law with being a Daesh member.
A spokesman at Turkey’s foreign ministry in Istanbul had no immediate comment and the Turkish embassy in Australia did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Ties between Turkey and its allies fighting Daesh, particularly the United States, have been frayed by Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara regards as a militant group.
Canberra announced financial sanctions against Prakash in 2015, including anyone giving him financial assistance, with punishment of up to 10 years in jail.
The Australian government wrongly reported in 2016, based on US intelligence, that Prakash had been killed in an air strike in Mosul, Iraq. It later confirmed that Prakash was detained in Turkey.
Australia raised its national terror threat level to “high” for the first time in 2015, citing the likelihood of attacks by Australians radicalized in Iraq or Syria.
A staunch ally of the United States and its actions against Daesh in Syria and Iraq, Australia believes more than 100 of its citizens were fighting in the region.