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Islam and the West ( 15 Oct 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Kurdistan’s Democracy At Risk: New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 16 October 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

16 October 2015

Kurdistan’s democracy at risk

By Ruwayda Mustafah

A window of opportunity for peace in Yemen?

By Manuel Almeida

The Iranians are on Turkey’s border

By Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Kurds: Common target of AKP and ISIL




Kurdistan’s democracy at risk

Ruwayda Mustafah

15 October 2015

The prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan sacked five ministers from the Gorran party following a week of anti-government protests. It is not uncommon for minsters to be sacked in Europe, for example, but what is uncommon are the events that followed the sackings, which have set a dangerous precedent for Kurdistan’s relative stability and democracy.

The spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has claimed that the protests were orchestrated by Gorran to undermine the government. However, no investigation has been carried out to verify the claim. More importantly, following the sackings parliament speaker Yusif Muhammed of Gorran was prevented from entering the Kurdish capital by forces belonging to the KDP-led coalition government.

Public needs

The government has not paid enough attention to the demands of the public. Demonstrators called for salaries that have not been paid for the past four months, due to the region not receiving its annual share of the budget from Baghdad.

However, critics say the Kurdish government can pay the salaries of civil servants because it exports an average of 600,000 barrels of oil per day to Turkey, according to the latter’s minister of energy and natural resources, Taner Yildiz.

Iraqi Kurdistan does not face a threat of civil war, which it experienced in the mid-1990s. However, in expelling an important partner from the coalition government, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani faces difficulties in rebuilding public trust, satisfying public needs, paying the salaries of civil servants, and avoiding further tensions.

It is possible that Gorran will become a forceful opposition group, or the parties may find a compromise, though this seems less likely. The coming weeks will likely see more political bickering, at a time when the Kurdish government wants to bypass Baghdad in receiving U.S. military support to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). If the demands of protesters are further ignored, resentment and anger toward the government will heighten.

Ruwayda Mustafah is a Law graduate, and PhD candidate in International Politics. She is the former Editor of Alliance for Kurdish Rights. You can follow her on Twitter here: @RuwaydaMustafah


A window of opportunity for peace in Yemen?

Manuel Almeida

15 October 2015

Last week, Yemen’s Houthi rebels wrote to the U.N. secretary-general to affirm their commitment to both the seven-point peace plan brokered by the United Nations in Oman, and to relevant Security Council resolutions. Also last week, the General People’s Congress (GPC), the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted the peace plan and resolutions in an emailed statement.

This, in theory, comes close to the position of the internationally-recognized Yemeni government and Saudi-led coalition, which have from the outset endorsed the U.N. plan as the only way forward. The key Security Council resolution 2216 of April this year demands, among other things, the end of hostilities and the withdrawal of Houthi militias and forces loyal to Saleh from Yemen’s cities.

Do these developments indicate that a political solution to the conflict is any closer than it was a few months ago? Not if previous talks and meetings between Yemeni warring parties as well as U.N.-led negotiations are anything to go by.

In June, negotiations in Geneva were interrupted by insults, fist-fighting and shoe-throwing among the delegates. Not even a humanitarian truce during Ramadan came out of that round of talks. In May, a five-day ceasefire did not stop armed clashes between local resistance and the Houthi-Saleh alliance.

Last year, before the conflict spread throughout the country, the U.N.-sponsored Peace and National Partnership Agreement, signed by all Yemeni factions, collapsed due to uninterrupted attacks by Houthi forces on state institutions.

It is not only the Houthi leadership that has a recent history of striking deals they intend not to respect. After the uprisings against his rule, Saleh himself used the Gulf-backed transition plan of Nov. 2011 (which allowed him to return to Yemen with immunity from prosecution on condition that he transfer power to his vice-president) to play a disruptive role.


Unsurprisingly, the reactions from both the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition to the Houthis’ and GPC’s acceptance of the U.N.-brokered peace plan were unenthusiastic, reflecting deep suspicion about the real intentions of the Houthi-Saleh alliance.

Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri, the spokesman for Arab coalition forces, said operations would continue given that the coalition did not receive any promises of a ceasefire from the Houthis. The press secretary of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said the government “position is unchanged. There must be an announcement of willingness to implement all articles of the resolution without any changes.”

However, previous talks and negotiations took place at an early stage in the conflict, when it had not yet run its course. As the conflict drags on, its destructive effects and impact on the civilian population have become ever-more evident, and the gains achieved by the Houthi-Saleh alliance in the first few months continue to be undone. Thus, the chances are a political settlement will become increasingly attractive to all parts.

The U.N. special envoy to Yemen, the Mauritanian Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, this week expressed his optimism about getting peace talks going, noting that all parties take “the U.N. process as the only game in town.”

Diplomatic pressure

The window of opportunity should not go to waste. The fact the GPC and the Houthis have expressed in writing their commitment to the U.N. peace plan is relevant in itself. Both may be bluffing, but violations of a plan endorsed by the Security Council will come at a high cost to their credibility as parties to the negotiations.

Further complicating matters, Saleh does not seem to back the GPC’s commitment to the peace plan. His speeches aired on Yemeni TV over recent days were yet another display of belligerence and dangerous illusions. The apparently diverging positions from Saleh and the GPC can be either a stalling tactic or a sign of divisions within the party.

While inevitably a priority for anyone concerned with the stability of the whole region, key international players should not allow the Syrian crisis and Russia’s military intervention to deviate the focus away from the possible settlement of the Yemen conflict.

During last weekend’s visit to Russia of Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was fully committed to cooperate with all parties to resolve the Yemen conflict.

What American, European and Russian diplomats could now do is work on a step-by-step road map to implement Security Council resolution 2216 and the seven principles agreed upon in Oman. Both documents provide the key, general guidelines for a political settlement, but translating that into reality in such a complex conflict is another story.

Manuel Almeida is a writer, researcher and consultant on the Middle East. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the London of Economics and Political Science and was an editor at Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. He can be reached on @_ManuelAlmeida on Twitter.


The Iranians are on Turkey’s border

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

15 October 2015

The Syrian city of Aleppo is only 45 kilometers away from the Bab al-Hawa crossing along the Turkish border. Thousands of Iranian soldiers and fighters, preparing for the biggest military battle of the Syrian revolution since it began in 2011, are marching toward Aleppo, Syria’s most populated city.

The Iranians mobilized this army a week after their top commander Hossein Hamedani was killed during fighting in Aleppo, which the Syrian regime lost control of despite Iranian support. The regime has also lost a number of towns north of the city. Defeat explains Iran’s intention to send more troops to fight there under Russian aerial cover.

Unlike Turkey, which borders Syria and is particularly close to Aleppo, Iran - which wants to impose itself as a regional power - has come to Syria from afar with all its might. Ankara has had many justifications to defend its interests and security in northern Syria, such as the regime’s violation of Turkish airspace, cross-border mortar fire, or the downing of a Turkish jet at the start of the war. This is of course in addition to Turkey’s right to protect its borders.

Perhaps military intervention has become harder for Turkey today, considering the presence of thousands of Russian, Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese fighters near its borders, and the escalation of the struggle to a higher level between Washington and Moscow.


The terrorist attack in the Turkish capital, which killed around 100 people, is a repercussion of the Syrian crisis, and may be a message from one of the warring parties such as Iran, Russia, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The results of Aleppo’s awaited battle between Iranian forces and Syrian rebels are all negative for Turkey. If the Iranians win, this will mean the defeat of Ankara’s allies, and Turkey will thus be a target for militias that are agents of Iran and the Syrian regime.

If the Iranians fail to occupy Aleppo, they will blame the Turks and accuse them of funding armed groups. If the fighting continues for long, it may not stop at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, as Aleppo is less than half an hour drive to Turkey.

At least half of Aleppo’s 2 million inhabitants have stayed despite the horrific destruction caused by the regime over two years. It has used barrel bombs to displace the population and destroy the city in a manner we have not seen in the history of the region.

After previous failed attempts, the regime’s allies are preparing to raid the city again, but this time depending on massive Iranian ground forces and advanced Russian air power. Unfortunately, we will witness a worse tragedy because Iranian mortars and Russian shelling will target civilian areas, so many will be displaced and will mostly head toward Turkey.

Russian and Iranian invaders think they are capable of retaking Aleppo. They also plan to head to Hama governorate. This is a stupid project aimed at restoring regime governance, and it will ultimately fail.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.


Kurds: Common target of AKP and ISIL


October 15, 2015

Thousands of Turkish citizens are fighting on the side of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

There are many contact points in different parts of Turkey working as liaison offices for ISIL to recruit militants. Eyewitness accounts reveal that ISIL militants can freely cross the border whenever they want. It is also no secret that those members of ISIL wounded in Syria receive treatment in hospitals in Turkey. And everybody also knows that Turkey sent weapons to the opposition groups in Syria. It is argued that ISIL acquired some of these weapons. We also know the fate of the train-and-equip program implemented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Almost all of the militants trained and equipped in Turkey joined either al Nusra or ISIL.

These are what we are aware of. Who knows, there may be many other things that we do not know. Turkey, feeling that it had to join the international coalition against ISIL, conducted some superficial operations in the country. A number of people who were found to be disseminating propaganda for ISIL were placed under detention; most of them were released. But no armed ISIL militant or suicide bomber was ever caught. However, a statement made by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu after the Ankara massacre revealed that the security and intelligence offices had information on 21 ISIL suicide bombers who were ready to conduct a terror attack in Turkey. It has since been revealed that the two suicide bombers who carried out the attack in Ankara were on this list.

In my previous column, I wrote that ISIL targeted the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) activities in Turkey. This is not intelligence information; it is just a fact. Before this year's June 7 election, Erdoğan and the AKP ran a campaign to ensure that the HDP would remain below the election threshold. In the meantime, ISIL bombed HDP offices and also attempted to stage a huge massacre at a HDP rally in Diyarbakır two days before the election. Four died there and 200 were wounded; many of them lost their legs, arms and eyes. Following the election, 32 were killed in Suruç on July 20. ISIL also committed a huge massacre in Kobani on crossing the border to Turkey where they killed 150 people.

Obviously, for ISIL, Turkey is the proper venue for fighting against the Kurds and the HDP, which is supported mainly by the Kurds. And, it is easy to stage violent attacks here. The findings support this argument. Does the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) not see what we do? Does the AKP not see it?

When you raise this fact, supporters of the AKP argue that we blame the state. This is a typical sense of guilt. ISIL militants blew themselves up to commit a massacre in the capital of Turkey, and AKP supporters are uncomfortable with our questions. They are focused on winning a majority, so, they are unable to share the pain of the people. The AKP has caused chaos and tension in Turkey. Eventually, it will have to answer for this.

The editor-in-chief of Today's Zaman, Bülent Keneş, was released from prison after an appeal by his lawyers. His arrest was an example of bullying. Keneş was released, but there is still censoring and pressure on the media. Despite this, President Erdoğan publicly argues that the media in Turkey is freer than the media in Europe.