Iraq deploys special forces in Kirkuk amid Kurdish flag dispute

Iraqi policemen march during a parade in Baghdad on January 10, 2019 to mark the graduation of 158 Iraqi policemen after a six-month training period. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Iraq deploys special forces in Kirkuk amid Kurdish flag dispute

  • In December Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan announced a deal to resume oil exports from Kirkuk

KIRKUK, Iraq: Iraqi special forces deployed Thursday in Kirkuk after the raising of the Kurdish flag over a political party headquarters revived tensions more than a year after Baghdad seized the disputed northern city.
Iraq’s counter-terrorism chief gave President Barham Saleh’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) until noon on Friday to lower the red, white, green and yellow flag of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Under Iraq’s constitution, multi-ethnic Kirkuk province is controlled by the central government in Baghdad.
Kirkuk is one of several regions that Kurdish peshmerga fighters took over in 2014 as jihadists from the Daesh group swept through much of northern and western Iraq.
Angered by an independence referendum held in the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan as well as in disputed border areas including Kirkuk, Baghdad deployed federal forces to retake the oil-rich province in 2017.
The vote saw more than 92 percent of Kurds back secession, but the federal government rejected the poll as “illegal,” imposed economic penalties and seized the disputed Kirkuk oil fields, halting exports.
In December Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan announced a deal to resume oil exports from Kirkuk.
Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, seen as a consensual figure who has settled disputes between Kurdistan and Baghdad in the past, appealed to Saleh after the flag was raised on Tuesday evening.
Abdel Mahdi spoke by telephone to the president, who was on a visit to Qatar, the premier’s office said.
Abdel Mahdi complained that flying the flag above party headquarters in Kirkuk is “a violation of the constitution.”
He suggested the matter be referred to the Supreme Court, which had ruled the independence referendum was illegal.


Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

Updated 23 March 2019
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Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

  • After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism”
  • The visit to Egypt is Abdul Mahdi’s first trip abroad since taking office in October

CAIRO: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi sought Egypt’s support for efforts to tackle extremist militants in the region during a visit to Cairo on Saturday, his first trip abroad since taking office in October.
After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism” and said “cooperation between Egypt and Iraq will be essential for this matter,” according to an official statement.
His comments came as US-backed forces said they had captured Daesh’s last shred of territory in eastern Syria at Baghouz, ending its territorial rule over a self-proclaimed caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq after years of fighting.
Though the defeat ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some Daesh fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The United States thinks the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq.
Defeating militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and restoring security after years of unrest has been a key promise of El-Sisi, the general-turned-president who came to power a year after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in 2013.
Egypt has fought an insurgency waged by a Daesh affiliate in North Sinai since 2013. Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed.