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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 The Kurds have withdrawn their support of Iraq’s offensive to retake Hawija, one of the last major ISIS strongholds in Iraq.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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Economy

US pledges $10.6B aid for Central America, southern Mexico

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US pledges 106B aid for Central America southern Mexico

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The United States pledged $5.8 billion in aid and investment Tuesday for strengthening government and economic development in Central America, and another $4.8 billion in development aid for southern Mexico.

The U.S aid aims to promote better security conditions and job opportunities as part of a regional plan to allow Central Americans and Mexicans to remain in their countries and not have to emigrate.

The plan was announced in a joint U.S.-Mexican statement released by the State Department and read aloud by Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard in the Mexican capital.

“In sum I think this is good news, very good news for Mexico,” Ebrard said.

Newly inaugurated President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waxed poetic about the plan to provide jobs so people won’t have to emigrate.

“I have a dream that I want to see become a reality … that nobody will want to go work in the United States anymore,” Lopez Obrador said at a morning news conference before the announcement.

The combination of public and private investment for the stay-at-home effort doesn’t require congressional approval, unlike Trump’s signature project to stem illegal immigration — a border wall.

The U.S. State Department issued a simultaneous statement saying “The United States is committing $5.8 billion through public and private investment to promote institutional reforms and development in the Northern Triangle,” a term that refers to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Lopez Obrador’s administration has said it is also interested in agricultural, forestry and tourism projects in southern Mexico, and the U.S. said it will contribute to those efforts.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation “is prepared to invest and mobilize $2 billion in additional funds for projects in southern Mexico that are viable and attract private sector investment,” according to the statement. “This amount is in addition to the $2.8 billion in projects for Mexico through OPIC’s current investment pipeline.”

Ebrard said “The commitments established here signify more than doubling foreign investment in southern Mexico starting in 2019.”

Southern states like Chiapas and Oaxaca are home to many of Mexico’s poorest communities. Lopez Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, has sought to make development in that region a priority, including plans for a “Mayan train” stretching from touristy parts of the Yucatan Peninsula down to Chiapas.

It was unclear if Mexico would give anything in return. A planned announcement about Mexico’s migration policy was postponed until Wednesday.

The United States has reportedly wanted Mexico to allow migrants seeking asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico while their applications are processed.

Ebrard had previously suggested that about $25 billion in U.S. investment would be an appropriate figure for what Mexicans and Central Americans have dubbed “The Alliance for Prosperity” in the region.

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Culture and Religion

Doctors baffled as inoperable brain tumor in 11-year-old Roxli Doss miraculously disappears

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Doctors baffled as inoperable brain tumor in 11-year-old Roxli Doss miraculously disappears

It was the worst news Scott and Gena Doss could have received. Their 11-year-old daughter, Roxli, was suffering from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, a very aggressive brain tumor. To be sure, her parents sought multiple opinions to see if the worst-case scenario perhaps wasn’t what they thought it was.

Everyone agreed. It was bad.

“At Dell Children’s, Texas Children’s, at Dana-Farber, at John Hopkins, and MD Anderson, all agreed it was DIPG,” said Scott.

The prognosis was grim, but then something miraculous happened.

Texas girl’s inoperable brain tumor miraculously vanishes

https://nypost.com/2018/12/18/11-year-old-girls-inoperable-brain-tumor-miraculously-vanishes/Roxli underwent weeks of radiation as her Buda community rallied by holding a benefit for her in August, when all her parents could do was pray for a miracle.

“And we got it,” an overjoyed Gena said.

“Praise God, we did,” Scott added.

“When I first saw Roxli’s MRI scan, it was actually unbelievable,” Harrod said. “The tumor is undetectable on the MRI scan, which is really unusual.”

Doctors have no idea why the tumor vanished.

My Take

Those of us who share faith in God and His plan are rarely surprised to hear stories like this one. Medical science can only go so far before a higher power must be called on to intervene. We hope and pray the Doss family’s story can inspire others.

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Foreign Affairs

Sens. Cotton, Cruz to introduce resolution recognizing Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

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Sens Cotton Cruz to introduce resolution recognizing Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

“Israel gained possession over the Golan Heights in a defensive war over 50 years ago and has responsibly controlled the area ever since,” stated Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “It’s past time for the United States to recognize reality by affirming Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

 Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are planning to introduce a Senate resolution on Tuesday urging the United States to formally recognize Israeli control of the Golan Heights.

Jewish Insider first reported this development.

The outlet reported that the resolution states that “Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights is critical to Israel’s national security,” and that “Israel’s security from attack from Syria and Lebanon cannot be assured without Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

“It is in the United States’ national security interest to ensure that the [Bashar] Assad regime faces diplomatic and geopolitical consequences for the killing of civilians, the ethnic cleansing of Syrian Sunnis and the use of weapons of mass destruction,” it adds.

“Israel’s northern border is threatened by Iranian forces and their proxies in Lebanon and Syria, including Hezbollah’s 150,000 rockets, armed drones, newly discovered terror tunnels and more,” said Cruz and Cotton in a joint statement released by their offices. “Meanwhile, with the Ayatollahs’ help, Bashar al-Assad’s regime is on the verge of securing victory in Syria’s civil war. He may soon turn his attention back to threatening the Jewish state.”

“Israel gained possession over the Golan Heights in a defensive war over 50 years ago and has responsibly controlled the area ever since,” they added. “It’s past time for the United States to recognize reality by affirming Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

“Protecting the Syrian interest on the Golan Heights means protecting the Iranian interest,” former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold told JNS. “Does anyone seriously want to do that? Besides the Golan has been in Israeli hands many more years than it was in Syrian hands. The time to recognize our sovereignty has come.”

Groups such as the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) have advocated for this U.S. acknowledgment.

“U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is an issue that is critical to the national security interests of the United States of America,” EMET founder and president Sarah Stern told JNS. “Largely because of President [Barack] Obama’s failure to enforce his red lines, Syria has become a failed state, and because of this vacuum that has been left over by the previous administration, Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces have swooped in to fill the void.”

“U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is particularly important because Iranian backed forces, including the IRGC and Hezbollah, are attempting to dominate the region and form a land bridge from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean Sea,” she continued. “By having American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, we are sending a strong message to Tehran that their hegemonic aspirations must not go on unchallenged.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has not taken a position on the resolution, “but given current political and security circumstances in Syria, it is inconceivable to imagine Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights,” a spokesperson told JNS.

However, Washington-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant John Sitilides told JNS that this move is unnecessary considering Israel’s control of the Golan and the backlash Israel could receive were there to be such a recognition.

“Israel has been skillfully capable of controlling the Golan and defending its own national sovereignty and recognized borders, even against terror organizations and nation-states, without annexing the region,” he said. “Optimally, any change of sovereign borders in the aftermath of war and military occupation should involve and be approved by the disputing nations. This is an ill-timed and unproductive measure that may compel Israel’s closest Western allies to forsake it for the sake of international law and treaties.”

But according to Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “U.S. recognition of Israel’s claims to the Golan is a recognition of reality.”

“In this sense, the move is long overdue,” he told JNS. “The Israelis will no longer consider ceding control of the Golan Heights to Syria now that the country effectively ceases to exist. Indeed, Israelis today cringe at the notion that their government might have made a deal with Bashar al-Assad.”

Nonetheless, he cautioned about possible negative ramifications behind a possible move by the United States, saying “after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, after it undermined the UNRWA narrative, and perhaps now, recognizing the Golan, Israel could be asked to acknowledge all that it has received and show flexibility to accommodate Trump’s peace plan. From the Israeli perspective, this could be the only real downside of a possible Golan move on the part of the administration.”

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