MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Assad and his creditors

The summit in Warsaw, Poland last week “to promote a future of peace and security in the Middle East” made clearer, and more complicated, the divisions between the United States and Europe over Iran, as Laura Rozen writes. If the point of the summit was to bring the United States and its allies closer on Iran, the meeting was at best a non-event and more likely a flop. If it was to scold Europe to highlight, from a US perspective, how its allies are flagging in their commitments, as Vice President Mike Pence laid out in his speech at the summit, then mission accomplished. Maybe.

Unfortunately, there may have been a missed opportunity in Warsaw to take advantage of a trend to reduce Iran’s presence and role in Syria, one of Washington’s top objectives. But it first requires some history and context.

When Hafez al-Assad was president of Syria, he had the knack for keeping creditors at bay. He got what he needed from Moscow and Tehran — arms, strategic depth, trade deals — but he held the strings. Assad had the touch for keeping potentially meddling powers at arm’s length. Under the old man, it was a two-way street. When you dealt with Assad and Syria, you were on Assad’s turf. Former US Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and James Baker came away from difficult engagements with Assad with wary respect for his formidable and often maddening negotiating style.

But the tables have turned, or so it seems. Under Hafez’s son, Bashar al-Assad, who became president after his father’s death in 2000, the creditors have seized the assets. Since the Syrian uprising of 2011, and especially since 2015, when Assad needed to call in the Russian and Iranian cavalries, the balance has faded from his dealings with Tehran and Moscow. Assad owes them too much, and they now have a lock, or so it seems, on the Syrian spoils. With all three countries under sanctions, there is little left to the imagination about the prospects for corruption and ghost deals in the tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars, all at the expense to the Syrian people — especially if the United States, the United Nations and the European Union are all on the sidelines during the post-conflict and reconstruction era.

When Bashar al-Assad deals these days with his Iranian and Russian interlocutors, he knows who they would like to see in his chair. Both countries have their candidates, and they know he knows who they are. As Russia and Iran have helped Assad reestablish control of most of Syria, however, he is now hoping to strengthen his hand and regain some elbow room for himself, but this is hard fought.

And in that score, the first order of business is loosening Iran’s increasing chokehold on Syria. Russia will be fine with its bases and military ties; Assad can live with that. But Iran, by its nature, seeks more. And a constellation is forming around the desire for a reduced Iranian presence. The United States, Russia, Israel, the Gulf states and Assad all want Iran to step back — all for different reasons and under different conditions. Even Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah may want to bring his forces back to Lebanon soon if Tehran would give the word.
The Iranian people are, at best, mixed about a long-term presence in Syria. While “the Iranian economy has experienced structural shifts from an academic point of view, its fundamental deficiencies have prevailed despite ambitions of modernization,” writes Bijan Khajehpour. The US sanctions are taking a toll. Iranians may be more concerned about jobs and the price and scarcity of food and basic consumer goods than they may be about the defense of the holy shrines in Syria, a key popular justification for Iran’s intervention, as Mahsa Rouhi explains.

While US leaders lectured their European counterparts in Warsaw, Russian President Vladimir Putin was smoothing over the differences with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in Sochi in the latest meeting of the bend-not-break Astana group, which remains the center of gravity for diplomacy on Syria. “The summit in Sochi reiterated a central trend within the Astana trio,” writes Maxim Suchkov, “that the previous gathering in Tehran exposed: Disagreements within the Astana trio persist, yet the three states continue to value their framework, which, in the absence of a better alternative, helps Moscow, Tehran and Ankara promote their own agendas and coordinate efforts in moving the course of action in Syria.”

With regard to Syria and Iran’s role there, the United States needs to consider ways to bring Moscow into the conversation. As we wrote back in July 2018, Putin “is not someone who works for free. If he believes he is helping Trump to achieve a responsible exit from Syria while assuring Israel’s security, this is big stuff, and the Russian president also needs a win from the art of the deal. For Putin, that means relief from at least some of the US sanctions on Russia.”

There are no illusions here about the political context of US diplomacy and sanctions on Russia. We are merely stating the obvious — there must be some give for the Russian get. If Washington has bigger fish to fry with Russia, such as in Ukraine, that makes sanctions relief impossible, then so be it. Sanctions, we had thought, are supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in themselves. With regard to Syria, there is simply no workaround for the United States in dealing with Russia if it wants to lessen Iran’s footprint. Otherwise, the Russia-Iran relationship, which has never been stronger, will only continue to grow, as we wrote here in August 2018.

With regard to Iran, the take here is that Iran is not going to “leave” Syria. As Nasser Hadian points out, Iran’s presence in Syria is “aimed at establishing effective deterrence and is justified as in principle being defensive and reactive in nature. In this equation, Iran’s establishment of effective soft and hard deterrence requires both soft and hard infrastructure.” For Iran’s revolutionaries, Hadian continues, Iran’s “presence at its core is the essence of Iranian power, which inherently expresses itself outwardly.”

But here too there could be at least the beginnings of a strategy, even if the United States is not willing to drop sanctions. The EU can be the good cop to Washington’s bad cop in dealing with both Russia and Iran. There are signs that some of Iran’s leaders might be willing to talk about a reduced presence in Syria. They can claim they have won the war by keeping Assad in power and are recommitting to domestic and economic issues. But they would need an economic carrot to complement the many sanctions sticks, perhaps around the INSTEX barter system set up by the United Kingdom, France and Germany for financial transactions with Iran. A first step should be Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria. If a combination of diplomacy, economic incentive and pressure can’t get Hezbollah out of Syria, then there is likely to be little movement on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces.

Another option is to encourage other Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to create an economic and political counterweight to Iran in Syria, as is happening in Iraq, with the support of the United States. But here too sanctions on Syria may get in the way. We wrote last month that “as the Gulf states reconsider their relations with Damascus and Syria’s return to the Arab League, and as the United States looks to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to finance Syrian reconstruction, a question will emerge regarding US and multilateral sanctions. Next week the US Senate will consider bipartisan sanctions legislation on Syria. More sanctions, however, could constrain regional and international efforts to support a Syrian transition and the country’s reconstruction, including initiatives of the United Nations and the World Bank. As it is with Iran, the United States could find itself boxed in, seeking exceptions to its own sanctions policies to allow allies to fund reconstruction.”

If Russia and Europe are unable to convince Iran to step back in Syria and Arab states are stymied in supporting Syrian reconstruction, as US President Donald Trump has called for, then Assad will have no choice but turn to his creditors. Iran and Russia will thereby further increase their equity in Syria and assure their lock on the spoils of reconstruction, adding yet another burden for the Syrian people.



Debatte über Identitätspolitik : Warum Amerika über ein Lieblingsschimpfwort der Rechten streitet – Von Frauke Steffens, New York FAZ – 18.02.2019-09:05

Geschlechtsneutrale Toiletten sind für viele in Amerika das Symbol für Identitätspolitik.

Nicht nur konservative Amerikaner machen Identitätspolitik für die Spaltung der Gesellschaft verantwortlich. Auch liberale Intellektuelle wie Francis Fukuyama kritisieren sie – als Ursache für den Aufstieg von Rechtsradikalismus und Rechtspopulismus.

Gender-neutrale Toiletten, „safe spaces“ und diktierte Sprechverbote – daran denken viele zuerst, wenn von Identitätspolitik die Rede ist. Der etwas unscharfe Begriff entwickelte sich in den vergangenen Jahren zu einem Lieblingsschimpfwort der Rechten in Amerika. Alle, die gegen Diskriminierung kämpfen, können darunter fallen. Und nicht nur Konservative, sondern auch liberale Intellektuelle wie Mark Lilla und Francis Fukuyama machen Identitätspolitik für die Spaltung der amerikanischen Gesellschaft verantwortlich.

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They’ve now come to the point in the UK where they argue that if you’re a UK citizen who joined ISIS that the UK should send a rescue expedition.
No rescue expedition for 3,000 missing Yazidis, no help for the indigenous people of Iraq and Syria, but one European passport holder and the whole world is worried.
It shows how little they value life here in this region. Don’t people in Iraq and Syria deserve the same rights as people in the UK?

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : PUTIN PROMOTES ASSAD – Russia says Syrian Kurds should start dialogue with Assad

WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA) – By AFP 1 hour ago 17 Febr 2019 –  MUNICH, Germany – Syria’s Kurds should start a dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad as their military allies the United States are readying to pull out, Russia said Sunday.

“We support this dialogue between Damascus and the Kurds,” said Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Vershinin, whose country is a key backer of the Assad regime.

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If Merkel is “leader of the free world”, how many countries have become more free and democratic since she came to power in 2005. This “free world” story is a nice platitude but what has actually been done by the leader to make the world more free?

john mclaughlinVerified account @jmclaughlinSAIS

At Munich Security Conference Angela Merkel gives passionate defense of int’l cooperation, Euro unity, NATO. With 14 years in office, solid grasp of issues, confident dialogue with audience, Merkel gets prolonged standin…





Kyle Orton‏Verified account @KyleWOrton 45 minutes ago  17 Febr 2019

US Envoy Jim Jeffrey says US policy on #Syria hasn’t changed. Goal: enduring defeat of IS, political resolution thru UN, remove foreign forces (esp Iran). US removing troops in NE Syria b/c IS defeated; will address #Turkey concerns & protect SDF. Not rapid withdrawal.

Oubai Shahbandar‏Verified account @OS26 3 hours ago

Lavrov lost his cool @joshrogin asked whether Russia would stop its Assad proxy from threatening region & committing more atrocities in #Syria. Unfortunate that herr @ischinger who was moderating didn’t insist that Lavorv answer (instead of laughing)

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Joost Hiltermann‏ @JoostHiltermann Joost Hiltermann Retweeted Thorsten Benner

Important study by @GPPi on chemical weapons use in #Syria. 17 Febr 2019

Thorsten BennerVerified account @thorstenbenner

“Maximum terror”: 336 cases of chemical weapons use in Syrian war since 2013 & hardly any enforcement of “red line”. @DerSPIEGEL previews @GPPi study by …


Barzani & Talabani families are above law in KURDISTAN

By KRPBarwari | Exclusive to

The article updated on Feb. 17, 2019. Law is not applied equally to everyone in Iraqi Kurdistan

Most of the problems in tyrannical societies are based on the fact that law really doesn’t exist except as a way to impose sanctions by the powerful on the weak. This has been the case in Kurdistan of Iraq as thousands of people have been suffering for many years in a society that is ruled by two corrupted Kurdish families named Barzani and Talabani. These two families rule Kurdistan directly and through puppet members of their own political parties who dominate all agencies of Iraqi Kurdistan regional government, KRG.

These two lawless families along their puppet government administration officials are above law and no one can hold them accountable when they break law because they control, Judges, police, and courts in Kurdistan of Iraq.

Many people in Kurdistan of Iraq been suffering for not having jobs, incomes and good services such as healthcare, electricity, water, shelter and for being subjected to discrimination of employment, violation to the right of freedom of speech and peaceful assemblies,while The Barzani and Talabani families are setting at the top of the pyramid, above every law and court and are enjoying the best life, best services, eating the best food, living in the best houses, and driving the best cars.

In fact, Barzani and Talabani families are the richest families in Kurdistan of Iraq. They have not suffered of economic recessions and ISIS war implications because first, they didn’t fight in the front line of war and second, they have stolen enough money from the public that no economic recession or war could ever affect their lives and make them suffer like rest of Kurdish people do.

These two corrupt and lawless families sleep on money and they are protected by thousands of armed men who are on public servant payroll list. They are the richest people in Kurdistan of Iraq. They own assets and cash money worth billions of dollars not only in Kurdistan but also in USA, Europe, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, and United Arab of Emirates.

They own private business, such as airline companies, TV stations, newspaper agencies, internet and phone telecoms, luxurious hotels, restaurants, gold and money marts, banks, shopping malls, complex of rent apartments, car dealers, private universities, merchandising companies.

Many of these assets are owned by the Kurdistan Democratic Party members particularly by Barzani family in the province of Duhok and Erbil. So if you are looking for a job at private sector but happened not to be loyal to Barzani family chances of getting a job in the province of Erbil and Duhok is zero. This means these two corrupted families have dominated both the economy and the government institutions of Kurdistan through the power of oil money that they have stolen from public purse.

In addition to that, you will be risking your life if you say Barzani family is a involved in corruption and have misused public money of Kurdistan people for their own personal gains, because the loyalist of Barzani family who Barzani have put them on payroll and have provided them with brand new cars, houses, jobs, land plots, and cash gifts, are everywhere around you and they won’t hesitate to either strike you down or report you to the secret agent of Asayish [Kurdish security forces] to get you arrested and take you down into a dark basement and torture you to death

Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, her son Qubad and Bafel Talabani

Jalal Talabani’s wife Hero Ibrahim Ahmed (C), her son Qubad (R) and Bafel (L), have been accused by observers and Kurdish opposition of amassing huge wealth for the family instead of serving the population, March 8, 2017. Photo:

Whenever you question as where do these two families -Barzani and Talabani -have obtained all this wealth, the softest answer they give to you is that they (Barzani and Talabani families) have worked very hard for it by fighting for Kurdish cause on mountains for years, by giving away many lives and by losing family members for the Kurdish cause. They add that these families are symbol of patriotism and sacrifices for Kurdish people and that gives them the right to have whatever they want to have even if they have obtained it through illegal means.

Some of the loyalists of these two corrupt families say that the Barzani and Talabani families work harder than anyone else in the Kurdish government and they deserve to get high salaries and this is how they became rich by saving and investing their monthly salaries on businesses. However, a normal person with the right set of mind would never believe that you can become a billionaire man by saving your monthly salary even if you are getting over 10 thousand dollars a month. And by the way, does fighting on the mountains as Peshmarga or giving away some lives in a fight for Kurdistan, means they have the right to steal public funds, or become a dictator or go above law or kill journalists or practice polygamy or have more rights and privileges over the rest of people in Kurdistan of Iraq?

As far as law, logic, justice, and ethics concern people fight and give away their lives for justice, freedom, equality, and human rights not for a purpose like corruption and dictatorship. So no matter how many years they have served as Peshmarga or how many lives they have lost in the course of fighting on the mountain, it does not give them the right to go above law, steal public money or become dictators or deny people, who happened not be their loyalists, the equal opportunity of work, freedom of speech, and all basic human rights.

Furthermore,there are thousands of armed and unarmed men and women in the province of Duhok who would stand behind Barzani family and fight for them in case Barzani family is criticized or threatened by anyone. This Barzani family has taken their roots deep down in the ground in the province of Duhok and Erbil. They control everything, government departments including police, judges, secret services, Peshmerga and private businesses.

As for the public sector, again its members of Barzani political party KDP who control everything in key government institutions. They decide who gets a job and who doesn’t.They have the top level of government posts.They hire whoever is their loyalist and they fire whoever is not their loyalist. They hire children of their own political party martyrs and not necessarily the children of a genuine martyr who have sacrificed their lives in a war for justice, freedom and human rights. You have people who have died naturally or because of sickness yet have been registered as martyred because they had been affiliated to KDP political party of Barzani.There are also people who have been registered as martyrs who have been killed in the clashes between Kurdistan democratic party of Barzani family and PKK or PUK or Iranian Kurdish democratic party in the past.

In addition, there are people who have never served as Peshmerga yet have been put on Peshmarga retirement pension because they vote for Barzani party in time of election. In fact, all members of Barzanis political Party KDP who work at his party offices have been put on payroll and get paid monthly. Where in the world have you seen political party put its members on payroll?

Kosrat Rasul Ali, his sons Derbaz and Shalaw

PUK leader Kosrat Rasul Ali (C), his sons Derbaz (L) and Shalaw, has been accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Photo: Kosrat’s FB/

These political members of KDP go to the offices of KDP early in the morning just like an employee goes to work every morning. They get together, sit, drink tea and give praise and credit to Barzani family. They also discuss how to cover up the dirty work and how to brainwash people to trust them and join their party in order to collect more votes for their party for the time of election. Their meetings are not about how to work and treat issues like poverty, high unemployment rate, overcoming issues like corruption or rule weak of law in Kurdistan, but rather about spreading propaganda against other Kurdish political parties in the public in order to break people away from other Kurdish political parties and recruit them into their own political party.

These KDP offices have become source of preaching hate against anyone who doesn’t belong to their political party. They usually put down other political parties by calling them traitors, thieves, mercenaries and corrupted. However, they tend to ignore the fact that the best way to gain the trust of people or recruit more people to join their political party is to work for solving their life problems such as poverty, diseases, unemployment, human right abuse, and weak rule of law in Kurdistan.

Obviously the idea of recruiting more people for their own political party is that they want to collect more votes for the time of elections so they can win election and enjoy the benefits and privileges that come with power of the government.

Talabani family and his Patriotic union party have been involved in corruption and misuse of public money just as the Barzani family have. They have used the same strategy in the province of Sulaimani.They have had full control over government agencies, most of business in the province of Sulaimani.They had the full control over everything until the new movement of change (Gorran) came to the field of politics and broke away many of its supporters and loyalists in the province of Sulaimani in Kurdistan of Iraq.

These two corrupt families spread deceptive and manipulative news around through their satellite TV channels and newspapers and say that they will make reforms, implement justice and law over all Kurdistan of Iraq and arrest all those who are involved in corruption, but they are big liars because people know that enforcing rule of law over Kurdistan will be in the interest of people but not in the interests of crooks like these two corrupt families of Barzani and Talabani and they will lose the special extra rights of stealing money, killing and arresting people who criticize them.

Many Kurdish people have given away the hope that the rule of law and justice might never be superior to the rule of these two powerful corrupt families in Kurdistan. However, Iraqi federal court do have the power to do so and it arrest both Barzani and Talabani under the charges of misusing public funds, corruption, and human right abuse, and disobedience of constitution of Iraq.

The Iraqi government, which is as corrupt as Barzani and Talabani families, turns a blind eye to the crimes of these two corrupted families. In fact, the Iraqi government work out their difference with these two families through secret deals on the bases of mutual interests and by also taking the interests of Iran and Turkey into consideration. This means Baghdad wants these powerful corrupt Kurdish families of Barzani and Talabani to stay in power but to work towards Islamizing the Kurdish society, drop off the ambition and campaign of independence and cooperate with Turkey in fighting PKK. Baghdad government also wants these two families to cooperate with Iran in fighting Kurdish opposition parties of Iran, and of course the Iraqi government in return will stop using economic punishment against them and will also hold off any federal court orders of bring these two Barzani and Talabani families to the federal court of Iraq under the charges of corruption, civil war crimes, human right abuse,and rebellion against the Iraqi constitutions articles.

Many people know that there have been a conflict of interests going on between Baghdad and Barzani and Talabani political parties. However, in the past these conflicts have mostly been solved based on giving and taking concessions through secret agreements without letting people and the public know.

These two families work secretly and don’t always tell the truth to people of Kurdistan. There is not enough transparency and respect for law in the government institutions which is something that is a prerequisite for a successful democracy.

All in all, law is not applied equally to everyone, the powerful, the powerless, the rich and the poor in Kurdistan of Iraq. In fact, no judge or police officer or any anti-corruption agent or parliamentarian a minister of Kurdistan regional government have started opening an investigation regarding how and where the Barzani and Talabani family have obtained all this wealth from because Barzani and Talabani families block all efforts of opening such an investigation by using their influence through their puppet judges, police, secret serves agents, ministers and parliamentarians who control most of government agencies in Kurdistan.

Clearly it is not an easy work to bring these two corrupt Kurdish families, Barzani and Talabani down under the law especially when they have all this heavy political, economical and military weight in Kurdistan of Iraq. They are protected not only by their militias, puppet ministers, judges, police and parliamentarians, but also by dominated the region,the lives of most people of Kurdistan by using their economic power, their assets and cash that are worth of billions of dollars. And not to mention that they are supported by thousands of armed and unarmed men and women in Kurdistan so are supported by many more business partners and foreign diplomat friends from different countries. For these reasons it is very hard to bring these two corrupt families to the court of justice and try them for corruption, human right abuse and civil war crimes.

Araz Barwari is a law student at the University of Nawroz in Kurdistan of Iraq.

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Beobachtermission Russland, Iran und Türkei teilen Syrien auf SPIEGEL ONLINE  17 Febr 2019

Novum im Syrienkonflikt: Russland, Iran und die Türkei einigen sich auf eine Beobachtermission für die Provinz Idlib, die nun Deeskalationszone werden soll. Die USA waren bei den Gesprächen nur Zuhörer.

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Kyle Orton‏Verified account @KyleWOrton 17 Febr 2019 – Kyle Orton Retweeted Yaakov Lappin

Wrote about this in December, the predicament #Israel is in dealing with a de facto hostile #Russia (and some of the wish-thinking to the contrary): …

“Russia is not a strategic partner of Israel. There are some who think it is. I don’t. You can’t cooperate with Russia on real intelligence, even though I think we saved lives there. And you can’t cooperate on technology. We have 1 real ally: The US.” – Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Gilad

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