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This is way more important than it appears: Kurds to vote on Kexit despite Iraqi opposition

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Despite very little attention, a major referendum is scheduled to take place Monday, September 25th, 2017. It’s a movement that has been a long time coming. The Kurdish Regional Government is going forward with its controversial referendum for independence. For decades, the Kurdish region of Iraq has pressed for independence and in 2005 were granted considerable regional autonomy in Iraq’s constitution. Still the movement lingered.

With the rise of the Islamic State and the embarrassing military shortcomings by the US-trained Iraqi army, the Kurds largely began to rely on their own defense capabilities. In both Iraq and Syria, Kurdish militaries have been instrumental in routing ISIS in both desert and urban warfare. The Iraqi military has relied on several regional militias both Sunni and Shi’ite in its fight against ISIS. The Kurds have capitalized on their strength and the Iraqi government’s weakness and seized land that isn’t necessarily Kurdish such as the region of Kirkuk, an oil rich city. The KRG has yet to formally annex Kirkuk, but nonetheless Kurdish presence in Kirkuk adds to the tension. The tensions between the KRG and Baghdad have escalated with the Iraqi parliament ruling the vote unconstitutional and nonbinding. The Kurds have withdrawn their support of Iraq’s offensive to retake Hawija, one of the last major ISIS strongholds in Iraq.

Masoud Barzani, the leader of the KRG, has steadfastly maintained that the referendum will go on whether or not the Iraqi government will allow it.

Perspectives

4 Key Points About The Kurdistan Independence Vote- Forbes

 The United States has come out strongly against the KRG’s proposed referendum. The United States urged the KRG to cancel the referendum and called the vote a distraction from the ongoing fight against Islamic State.  However Israel is a different story. Israel is the first country in the Middle East to voice its support for an independent Kurdistan. Support for an independent Kurdistan is strong among the Israeli public, and Israel and the KRG have strong economic ties. It is believed that since 2015, Israel has imported up to 77% of its oil from the KRG. Turkey has long opposed an independent Kurdistan and considers the Kurdish nationalist party within Turkey, the PKK, a terrorist organization. Turkey officially opposes the vote. In fact, Turkey staged tank drills on its border with Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday as a sign of its opposition. However, Turkey has long had good relations with the KRG, especially when it comes to oil. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are taking a diplomatic position and have offered to mediate between the KRG and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Sputnik: Moscow on Kurdistan Independence Vote: ‘We Support Iraqi Territorial Integrity’

Russia supports Iraq’s territorial integrity and calls on Baghdad and the government of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan to begin dialogue on all disputable topics and agree on mutually acceptable principles and forms of coexistence. This would make Russia the primary nation in support of the referendum, when so many including the United States and Iran are in opposition.

Kurdish independence referendum to go ahead in Iraq– Euronews

The Iraqi parliament earlier voted against the poll being held, branding it “unconstitutional” and, authorizing the Prime Minister to “take all measures” to preserve the country’s unity. However, the resolution did not specify what these measures might be. The KRG has already seen its central government funding slashed in protest against its selling of oil directly to Turkey. Kurdish lawmakers walked out of Parliament before the decision was taken. “Kurdish lawmakers walked out of (Tuesday’s) session but the decision to reject the referendum was passed by a majority,” said Mohammed al-Karbouli, a Sunni Muslim lawmaker. Oil rich Kirkuk voted to participate in the referendum further escalating tensions.

Will Kurdish Vote Trigger Yet Another War in Iraq? – VOA News
FILE - Fighters from Badr Brigades Shiite militia clash with Islamic State group militants at the front line on the outskirts of Fallujah, Anbar province, Iraq, June 1, 2015.

Fighters from Badr Brigades Shiite militia clash with Islamic State group militants at the front line on the outskirts of Fallujah, Anbar province, Iraq, June 1, 2015

It is rare for the United States and Iran to agree on anything but this week both Washington and Tehran have been scrambling to try to dissuade the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, from holding a referendum on independence. Their vehement opposition to an independence vote partly stems from their concerns about each other. Tehran worries that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan will cleave ever closer to America and the West, while Washington is anxious that the referendum will trigger war between Iraq’s Shi’ite militias and the Kurds, a conflict that would likely end up splintering Iraq, which the United States has spent considerable effort trying to bolster, and distract from the U.S. priority of defeating the Islamic State terror group.

The pro-Iranian shi’ite militias are willing to go to war over the disputed city, Kurkik. Whether serious fighting begins the day after next week’s referendum — no one doubts a majority of the Kurds will back independence — will depend on the restraint of the governments in Baghdad and Tehran, and that in turn will hinge, analysts say, on whether the Kurds announce an independent state immediately and move to annex disputed territories such as Kirkuk.

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Final Thoughts

Spoiler Alert: The Kurds are going to vote “Yes” for their independence. The Iraqi government is too weak to stop the vote much less go to war over it. The shame of the matter is that the Trump administration has come out against the vote. America needs to accept the reality that this vote is going to happen, and quite frankly the Trump administration should come out in support for Kurdish independence. The Kurds have been a remarkable ally in the Middle East in the fight against ISIS. So Trump should reward their loyalty, and failure to do so could have consequences when the inevitable independence happens.

They would also be a likely ally of Israel, the nation most prominently supporting their independence. In addition to another tally in the box of Middle Eastern countries that recognize Israel, Kurdistan would also be a strategic ally in the future against Iran. Iran may in fact go to war over this, so the enemy of my enemy saying rings true.

Furthermore, an independent Kurdistan is good for the middle east, in part, because nations are against it. Kurdistan has the potential to be the region’s second (to Israel) most stable country. In recent months, the KRG has been fortifying its borders, a sign that it is ready to handle broader responsibilities of self defense from Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. On top of being a more safe place, Kurdistan may be a hub for tolerance and equity. The pro-Israeli sentiment is a great sign that religious minorities will not be persecuted, at least not to the same extent as their neighbors.

America needs to help facilitate this outcome, or else hinder an alliance that Russia will be eager to grasp. And as for Kirkuk, Iraq should forget about getting that land back.

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Israel appoints first Christian ambassador

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Israel appoints first Christian ambassador

Most appointed bureaucrats and representatives in Israel are Jewish. Cultural diversity has been on the rise in the Jewish state and is starting to be reflected in government as they appointed their first Christian Arab ambassador.

George Deek will soon be Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan. It is an important relationship for Israel as the Muslim majority nation is one of Israel’s largest arms markets. They also supply about 40% of Israel’s oil.

“We are proud of his appointment, which perfectly symbolizes the integration of Israelis from different backgrounds in the representation of the state,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

Deek is currently a senior adviser to Director-General Yuval Rotem. His diplomatic experience is wide with stints serving the ministry in Norway and Nigeria.

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Immigration

Joni Ernst warns of challenges to push President Trump’s agenda after losing the House

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Joni Ernst warns of challenges to push President Trumps agenda after losing the House

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), the newly elected Republican Senate Conference vice chairman, pointed out two things that are going to be big challenges over the next two years: border security and making the tax cuts permanent. Both centerpieces of President Trump’s agenda will be difficult to achieve now that Democrats control the House of Representatives.

Republicans were able to get the tax cuts they wanted, but without control of the House it will be nearly impossible to make them permanent in the next two years.

They were unable to get border security pushed forward in the first two years of the administration despite having control of the House and the Senate during that stretch. Most notably, they failed to make significant progress towards building a border wall between Mexico and the United States.

With Democrats controlling the House, getting it done now will be nearly impossible.

My Take

It’s indefensible that Republicans didn’t do more for border security when they had the chance. Two years is plenty of time to push through legislation, but their focus on three failed Obamacare repeals drew their attention away.

Don’t get me wrong. Obamacare repeal is extremely important and arguably the reason they were able to win in 2010-2016. But it’s failure is no excuse for delaying border security measures. Now, they’re delayed indefinitely.

In those rare periods when a party controls the House, Senate, and White House, they need to pack all the legislation they believe America needs. Republicans ignored the border and now Americans will pay the price.

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Florida update: Rick Scott almost certain to win

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Florida update Rick Scott almost certain to win

By now, Rick Scott should be transitioning into the Senate and Bill Nelson should be looking for a new job. Instead, we’re having to wait a few more days until it all gets sorted out in the election-challenged state of Florida.

The good news for Scott, the current Republican governor, is that when the dust settles, he will be declared the winner.

Over 4,000 ballots are in bad-signature limbo, meaning they are currently being rejected over signatures that do not match what’s on record in 45 Florida county election offices. No word on how many ballots were rejected in the 22 other Florida counties.

Currently, Nelson trails Scott by around 12,500 votes.

With half a dozen lawsuits crossing the state over every voting issue imaginable right now, there will be legal proceedings that go well beyond the election’s final results. As it stands now, we won’t get those final results until a manual recount. The state’s threshold following a machine recount is .25%. Scott’s lead is currently at .14%.

My Take

It’s better to get elections results right than to get them swiftly. Both sides have used legal maneuvers to promote their causes, and while this can be an annoyance to voters while forcing the rest of the nation to collectively scratch our heads, it’s imperative that they see this all the way through to the end.

Republicans are wrong to be in a hurry to certify results because in such a close race, we as Americans should hope every valid vote is counted and every invalid vote is rejected. They’re in a hurry because there’s nothing to gain for the party by prolonging a race they’ve won. It’s understandable, but misguided.

Democrats are wrong on multiple levels. First, it’s becoming more and more clear that someone, whether it be election officials like Brenda Snipes, secret groups with ballot access trying to cheat, or a combination of the two, is trying to tip the scales in favor of Democrats. Second, some of their delay techniques and legal maneuvers won’t do anything to change the election results but are intended to taint the GOP wins. Third, their attacks through the media on Republicans, including Scott and governor-elect Ron DeSantis, have been unnecessarily brutal.

While it’s very likely Rick Scott will be declared the winner… someday… this latest series of incidents highlights two things: Florida’s election incompetence and forces working on behalf of Democrats to steal elections any way they can.

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