Iraqi Kurds postpone polls in face of crisis

Iraq's Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani. (Reuters)
Updated 19 October 2017
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Iraqi Kurds postpone polls in face of crisis

IRBIL: Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Wednesday postponed presidential and legislative elections because of the current crisis with Baghdad, its electoral commission said.
The region’s Independent High Electoral Commission said it had “decided to suspend temporarily preparations for the elections set for Nov. 1 because of the current situation.”
Iraqi government forces announced Wednesday they had retaken from Kurdish fighters almost all the areas disputed between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region in response to a September independence vote.
The commission said it was down to the regional Parliament to set a new date for elections. It said it had not received any nominations for the presidential poll by the deadline.
Mohammad Tawfiq Rahim, a prominent rival of regional President Masoud Barzani, was the only candidate registered to run, but the commission ruled he had missed the deadline.
Longtime regional leader Barzani, the driving force behind the Sept. 25 independence vote that sparked the crisis with Baghdad, has repeatedly said he will not stand for another term.
Iraqi government forces said Wednesday they had retaken almost all the areas disputed between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region following a sweeping advance into oil-rich Kirkuk province.
Kurdish forces are now largely confined to their longstanding three-province autonomous region in the north.
The autonomous region’s vice president Kosrat Rasul called the setback “a new Anfal for Kurdistan,” a reference to the widespread deaths and destruction wrought by operations in 1987-1988 by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the government’s Joint Operations Command (JOC), hinted that federal forces could yet be deployed to the remaining pockets of disputed territory still in Kurdish hands. “It’s not a military operation but the redeployment of forces to all areas to enforce the law,” Rasool said.
The JOC said Wednesday that “security (had) been restored in parts of Kirkuk including the key Khabbaz and Bai Hassan North and South oil fields.”
The lost fields accounted for more than 400,000 of the 650,000 barrels per day that the autonomous Kurdish region used to export in defiance of Baghdad.
Their loss deals a huge blow to the region’s already dire finances and dreams of economic self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile, Saudi budget carrier flynas on Wednesday made the first commercial flight from Riyadh to Baghdad since 1990, as ties with neighboring Iraq show signs of improvement.
“Our first flight took off today from Riyadh to Baghdad,” the company wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of the cabin crew and passengers.
Tickets for the maiden flight were advertised for as low as $7 excluding taxes.  
Flights between Iraq and Saudi Arabia were suspended some 27 years ago in August 1990 after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighboring Kuwait.


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.