TRUMP’S FINAL GIFT? Israel’s Massive Strike On Syria’s Iraqi Border Came With US Help

With days to go until the Biden administration officially takes over at the White House, Israel launched another air attack on Iranian forces in Syria. While an attack on Syria by the IAF has become standard in the remaining days of the Trump administration, this time the IAF struck closer to the Iraqi border in Eastern Syria.

The attack targeted at least 15 installations housing Iranian weapons and acted as the main transit hub for the IRCG into Western Syria. There are claims that it killed 57 people – mostly IRCG members or affiliates.

Syria’s official SANA news agency said the following:

“A military source told SANA in a statement that at 01:10 on Wednesday dawn, the Israeli enemy carried out air aggression on Deir Ezzor City and al-Bukamal area.”


From the outset of reports last night, it was already assumed that the US had given Israel the intelligence it needed to successfully carry out such an attack, which essentially crippled the Iranian forces in the area.

The AP has claimed the following in an article published today:

“The U.S. official, who requested anonymity to speak about the matter, said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Tuesday’s airstrike with Yossi Cohen, chief of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, at a public meeting in the popular Washington restaurant Café Milano on Monday.”

It has been assumed that the Trump Administration would continue to give Israel the green light to take out as much Iranian hardware and personnel as possible before Biden is installed. After January 20th the sinophilic nature of Biden’s regime will make Israel’s overt strikes very hard to carry out. China wants a strong Iran and if past is prescience then so does the Biden administration.

With the region on high alert after the strike, the question remains whether Iran will hold back for a few more days until the Biden administration takes over or retaliate now. Most observers believe the Mullahs in Tehran will refrain from attacking, but if this is not Trump’s final gift to the Jewish state, then expect something far larger to test the Ayatollah’s resolve

CHAOS CONTINUES: Both Iran and US Lose Iraq

While the dust still settles in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, it has become clear that they have chosen Muqtada al-Sadr’s list.  Muqtada al-Sadr is the Shiite cleric whose Shiite militia fought against US troops in Iraq and is responsible for thousands of casualties. Sadr’s list is not merely made up of Shiite radicals, but of secularists as well.

It is a mistake to classify Muqtada al-Sadr as a Shiite radical only.  What has become clear to those who have interacted with him is that he is as much an Iraqi nationalist as a Shiite radical.

According to Johnathan Steele who is one of the few Western journalists to have interviewed Sadr, “He [Sadr] even dared to say that once IS had been defeated, he wanted Iranian forces and the Americans to leave Iraq. While he called the Americans ‘invaders’, he was diplomatic enough to call the Iranians “‘friendly forces’ – but his message that both sides should leave Iraq was bold. It went well beyond anything that Abadi or Ameri would say or want.” 

Steele went on to infer the following: “No wonder that Tehran has publicly declared it will not allow Sadr to take power or play the decisive role in the government that will be formed after this weekend’s elections. ‘We will not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq,’ Ali Akbar Velayati, the senior adviser on foreign affairs to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in February.”

If Steele is right Iraq’s turmoil may just beginning. Whatever coalition Sadr puts together will have to contend with an Iran that will not be willing to let go of Iraq and at same time the new Iraqi government will of course ask the US to leave.

It is easy to see how this can quickly turn an Iraq that has been torn apart by sectarian conflict to further wade into the abyss, torn between Iran and the US.

Of course, given the fact that Sadr is ultimately a Shiite radical as well as a crafty leader, he may opt to allow Iran to stay just long enough to ensure the US is forced to abandon Iraq.


Will Iraqi Election Results Upend President Trump’s Great Iranian Pushback?

With polls already closed in Iraq, the USA, Israel, and the Gulf countries sit and await to see if Iran can pull victory from a week of continual political and military defeats. If the Iranian backed candidate Hadi al Amiri, the head of the Iranian militia known as the Badr Brigade wins the election it will be a serious blow for the USA and Israel’s efforts in pushing back Iran.

If Hadi al Amiri indeed wins he will more than likely move to push out the US troops in Iraq, thus blunting the Trump administration’s ability to contain Iran. This will actually for the USA to move quickly to find a way it can hold onto to its gains in the Syria theater.

The biggest loser of a potential Hadi al Amiri victory is Saudi Arabia. Not only is the kingdom dealing with Iranian backed Houthi rebels in Yemen that have been firing rockets at Riyadh, but it will need to find some way to contain their growing influence to the Kingdom’s north as well.

Even if Hadi al Amiri loses, no one person will have the ability to forge a single party coalition, which means Iran can influence whatever coalition forms. The growing Iranian control of Iraq is perhaps the most dangerous development in the Middle East.

If Hadi al Amiri wins or is a major player in the next coalition look for the Trump Administration to do the following:

  • Push for Kurdish independence
  • Increased Defense for Saudi Arabia

With Iran still reeling from Israel’s counterattack, an Iraqi win will be used as a reset for the limping ayatollahs.

Trump Administration Begins to Cut Off Iraq

The Obama administration’s policy of simply turning a blind eye on Iraq’s willingness to work with Iran while using American equipment seems to be on its way out under the Trump administration.

According to an unnamed source in the al-Ghad Press: “The American tank company [General Dynamics] withdrew from its position at Muthanna airport in Baghdad, after considering that Iraq is in violation of the contract with it, which states that the Iraqi army is the only side that’s authorized to use the Abrams.”

The squeeze is on and the beginning of the letting loose of America’s “allies” as they act as trojan horses for the growing Shiite menace is beginning.  Discussed here on Israel Rising was the great pivot Trump’ admnistration is undergoing towards placing its long term strategy for stablizing the Middle East under Kurdish and Israeli spheres of influence.

The move by General Dynamics is the beginning of this pivot.

With Iraq on its way out,  the assumption is that the KRG in Iraq will be back as a real alternative to past US allies.

Trump Administration Puts Weight Behind Kurdistan as an Official Policy

In my post titled, “COLD WAR RENEWED: Israel and Kurdish SDF are Now Trump’s Weapons Against Iran” that was published on January 15th I wrote the following:

“President Trump, campaigning against direct US involvement in the Middle East has had his team draft a strategic plan that will help a weakened US military confront these strategic threats head on. Two partners are emerging to help the US push back on the strength Russian-Shiite grip over the Middle East.”

I detailed that both the Kurdish SDF and Israel were these partners.  Lots of things have occured in the following two weeks.  The most important is Turkey’s decision to invade the Kurdish held canton of Afrin in North Syria. Suffice to say the Turkish military operation is not going as well as Erdogan would have hoped.  This is due to the US backing the SDF up with American weapons and of course serious training.

In continuation of this policy the US has now come to realize that it must support the KRG in Iraq as well.

Speaking on Sunday to Abu Dhabi’s Sky News Arabia, while he was visiting Kuwait, Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State (IS), said that “the airports in the Kurdistan Region needed to be reopened.”

McGurk also stated that Baghdad needed to pay the salaries of government employees in the Kurdistan Region and the dispute over control of land borders needed to be resolved as well.

Kurdistan 24 says that a well placed source has indicated that the US has changed positions on its public support of the KRG as opposed to remaining silent due to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s partnership with Iranian para military groups and political parties in Iraq.

This is clearly one of the reasons, but in the broader sense, it is in fact the coalescing of the Turkey-Iran axis with Russia that has made Washington realize that the Kurds need to be suported across the board.  Turkey’s invasion of Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava, Western Kurdistan) with its operation in Afrin has sped up this change of policy.

US Holds Off on Support for Independent Kurdistan, While Israel Sticks By the Kurds

While Israel remains the only country in the world to openly call for an independent Kurdistan, the Trump Administration continues to publicly beg for the Iraqi Kurds to push-off their referendum for independence to be held on September 25th.

“The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intention to hold a referendum later this month,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday. “The United States has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat [the Islamic State] and stabilize the liberated areas.”

Of course, the United States should not be surprised by the drive by the Kurds for an independent state. The Kurds have for centuries pushed for their own sovereign country without success.  Now, with the Kurdish Regional Government showing that they are by far the most stable entity in Iraq and have been the biggest reason behind the coalition’s success against ISIS, the drive for independence has been expected.

“We know, by the way, that the State Department and possibly the [Defense Department] are personally contacting members of Congress, senators, representatives, asking them not to support the referendum,” Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, told POLITICO in a recent interview. “We’re very serious about independence. It’s kind of disheartening that for two to three years we talked about a referendum and the U.S. said that it was surprised.”

The US is challenged by the possibility of an independent Kurdistan, because supporting its independence, would essentially collapse the post World War 2 security structure in the Middle East.   An independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq may only constitute a minority of the total Kurdish population and their homeland in the Middle East, but by the US supporting it, would cause Turkey to disconnect from the West and Iraq to officially declare allegiance to Iran.

Most observers say that this is happening anyway. Given this fact, an independent Kurdistan would be America’s best bet to reach stability in an area being gobbled by the Iranians.

US Wants Kurdish Support Without Giving them Anything Substantial

Ever since the 1991 invasion of Saddam’s Iraq, the US has promised the Kurds of Northern Iraq that they would eventually support their independence, but they would have to agree wait until the opportune time.  They gained autonomy and US protection. Then the US invaded Iraq again and toppled Saddam Hussein in 2002.  The Kurds gained full autonomy inside a federalized Iraq with promises of eventual independence. It has been 15 years since the US invasion of Iraq.

As the rest of Iraq collapsed into chaos well before ISIS, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) prospered.  The US dawdled while Kurds held back ISIS and then when the Defense Department finally dropped in supplies, the Kurds seemed the only group capable of soundly defeating ISIS.

With all of the above, the US still chooses to withhold its support for Kurdistan.

Israel Remains Alone in its Support for Kurdistan

There are many reasons for Israel’s support for an independent Kurdistan.  Most observers believe correctly that it would send a ripple effect to other Kurdish areas, most notably inside Iran, making it especially dangerous to the Ayatollah’s theocratic rule.

Geopolitics aside, Jews and Kurds have a long history together.  Ever since the first exile from Israel, Jews have seen the Kurds whose predecessors were the Medes as friends and allies.  Through the years, both groups were persecuted and remained stateless. In an act of comradery, sensing an unequal status for their ancient allies, today’s Israelis long to help the Kurds achieve what Jews only achieved a short while ago.

September 25th will most likely result in support for independence. The day after may very well bring war, but the Kurds will fight for their homeland knowing if the Jews after 2000 years of exile can achieve it, so can they.



The decision to follow through with sending Iraqi Jewish archives back to Iraq is part of a disturbing pattern.

The law of Occam’s Razor, refined to common parlance, is that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

If we apply Occam’s Razor to recently reported positions of the US State Department, then we can conclude that the people making decisions at Foggy Bottom have “issues” with Jews and with Israel.

Last Friday, JTA reported that the State Department intends to abide by an agreement it reached in 2014 with the Iraqi government and return the Iraqi Jewish archives to Iraq next year.

The Iraqi Jewish archives were rescued in Baghdad by US forces in 2003 from a flooded basement of the Iraqi secret services headquarters. The tens of thousands of documents include everything from sacred texts from as early as the 16th century to Jewish school records.

The books and documents were looted from the Iraqi Jewish community by successive Iraqi regimes. They were restored by the National Archives in Washington, DC.

The Iraqi Jewish community was one of the oldest exilic Jewish communities.

It began with the Babylonian exile following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem 2,600 years ago. Until the early 20th century, it was one of the most accomplished Jewish communities in the world. Some of the most important yeshivas in Jewish history were in present-day Iraq. The Babylonian Talmud was written in Iraq. The Jewish community in Iraq predated the current people of Iraq by nearly a thousand years.

It was a huge community. In 1948, Jews were the largest minority in Baghdad.

Jews comprised a third of the population of Basra. The status of the community was imperiled during World War II, when the pro-Nazi junta of generals that seized control of the government in 1940 instigated the Farhud, a weeklong pogrom. 900 Jews were murdered.

Thousands of Jewish homes, schools and businesses were burned to the ground.

With Israel’s establishment, and later with the Baathist seizure of power in Iraq in the 1960s, the once great Jewish community was systematically destroyed.

Between 1948 and 1951, 130,000 Iraqi Jews, three quarters of the community, were forced to flee the country. Those who remained faced massive persecution, imprisonment, torture, execution and expulsion in the succeeding decades.

When US forces overthrew the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, only a dozen or so remained in the country.

Today, there are none left.

As for the current Iraqi government that the State Department wishes to support by implementing its 2014 agreement, it is an Iranian satrapy. Its leadership and military receive operational orders from Iran.

The Iraqi Jewish archive was not created by the Iraqi government. It is comprised of property looted from persecuted and fleeing Jews. In light of this, it ought to be clear to the State Department that the Iraqi government’s claim to ownership is no stronger than the German government’s claim to ownership of looted Jewish property seized by the Nazis would be.

On the other hand, members of the former Jewish community and their descendants have an incontrovertible claim to them. And they have made this claim, repeatedly.

To no avail. As far as the State Department is concerned, they have no claim to sacred books and documents illegally seized from them.

When asked how the US could guarantee that the archive would be properly cared for in Iraq, all State Department spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said was, “When the IJA [Iraqi Jewish archive] is returned, the State Department will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and make it available to members of the public to enjoy.”

It is hard not to be taken aback by the callousness of Rodriguez’s statement.

Again, the “members of the public” who wish to “enjoy” the archive are not living in Iraq. They are not living in Iraq because they were forced to run for their lives – after surrendering their communal archives to their persecutors. And still today, as Jews, they will be unable to visit the archives in Iraq without risking their lives because today, at a minimum, the Iraqi regime kowtows to forces that openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish People.

And the State Department knows this.

Then there is the second story that came out this week, whose implications are no less dismal.

Friday, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is leading an effort by State Department officials to convince President Donald Trump to force Israel to return $75 million in congressionally authorized supplementary aid.

On the face of it, the demand is part of a turf war that the State Department has long fought with Congress regarding the scope of Congress’s power to engage in foreign policy. In the final year of the Obama administration, Obama forced Israel to agree not to accept supplementary appropriations in defense aid from Congress beyond what was agreed upon in the memorandum of understanding he concluded. Obama’s position was rightly viewed as a means to undermine Israel’s relations with members of Congress.

But it was equally a means to undermine Congress’s ability to assert its constitutional power to appropriate funding.

As negotiations between Israel and the Obama administration progressed last year, Senator Lindsay Graham implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to accede to Obama’s demand.

But in the empty hope of averting a last-minute move by the Obama administration to enable an anti-Israel resolution to pass at the UN Security Council, and concerned that a Hillary Clinton administration would offer Israel less assistance than Obama had offered, Netanyahu signed the deal.

Graham reacted to the MOU’s conclusion by stating that it is unconstitutional and therefore Congress would disregard it.

After Trump was elected, his advisers assured Israel that they would not enforce the MOU’s restrictions on supplementary funding. And yet, now, the State Department is seeking to do just that.

While in many ways this is an internal American fight, the unmistakable fact is that the State Department always seems to fight its turf war with Congress over issues relating to Israel. Moreover, the fight always involves bearing down on some of the dumbest aspects of traditional US Middle East policy.

Over the past 20 years, the State Department has fought and won two major battles against Congress relating to Israel. First, the State Department has continuously blocked the 1996 Embassy Act that requires the State Department to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Second, the State Department fought and won a Supreme Court battle to block implementation of the law requiring it to permit US citizens born in Jerusalem to have Israel listed as their country of birth on their passports.

In both cases, the State Department’s actions reflected a longstanding policy of mollycoddling antisemitic Arab regimes and terrorist groups at Israel’s expense. No US interest has been advanced by these efforts. To the contrary, as Senator Tom Cotton argues in relation to the State Department’s current efforts to force Israel to return the $75m. supplemental appropriation for missile defense projects, the US harms itself by undermining its key ally in fighting the enemies it shares with Israel.

Moreover, the $75m. supplemental assistance for development of missile defense technologies is not a gift to Israel. As the current standoff between the US and North Korea makes clear, the US itself is in dire need of just the sort of anti-missile technologies that Israel is developing. Indeed, the US stands to lose if Israel cuts back its missile defense programs due to lack of funding.

So again, we return to Occam’s Razor.

The State Department’s determination to return the purloined Iraqi Jewish archive to the Iraqi government, like its efforts to convince Trump to demand that Israel return the supplemental aid, doesn’t appear to be guided by any underlying concern for US interests.

Why would Egypt or Saudi Arabia object to Israel developing new means to intercept Hamas, Hezbollah or Iranian missiles? So like its fights against congressional efforts to recognize Israel’s capital city, and indeed like the State Department’s insistence that the US has no option other than recertifying Iranian compliance with Obama’s nuclear deal with the ayatollahs despite overwhelming evidence of Iranian noncompliance, there is an undercurrent of obsessive vindictiveness to the State Department’s current efforts.

In issue after issue, the same officials engage in behavior that appears to reflect a compulsive habit of always demanding that the US adopt positions that weaken US-Israel ties and undermine Jewish rights in Israel, and throughout the Middle East.

Perhaps there is another explanation for this consistent pattern of behavior.

But the simplest explanation is that the State Department suffers from an unhealthy obsession with regard to Jewish rights and the Jewish state.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post


The Point has been covering this story for a while. This goes back to 2013.

Iraq in the 40s had 350,000 Jews. Today it has somewhere between four and none.

Despite that the Obama administration plans to send the Jewish Archive consisting of religious artifacts, bibles, marriage contracts, community records and private notebooks seized by the Iraqi Secret Police from the Jewish community back to Iraq.

The material is not the property of the Iraqi government, either Saddam’s regime which stole it, or its Shiite successor which claims to want it, but not the Jews who owned it. It’s the property of Iraqi Jewish refugees and their reconstituted communities in America, Israel and anywhere else.

The personal material, like marriage contracts and school books, should go to the families that owned them and to their descendants. The religious material, which a Muslim country that purged its Jewish and Christian communities has no use for, should go Iraqi Jewish religious communities wherever they are now.

Jewish bibles seized from the custody of the Nazi SS would not be sent to the German government. There is no reason to send Jewish bibles into the custody of the Iraqi government.

Despite that, the State Department has announced that the stolen Jewish property will be sent to the Iranian puppet regime in Baghdad.

The United States will return to Iraq next year a trove of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to keep in this country, a State Department official said.

A four-year extension to keep the Iraqi Jewish Archive in the U.S. is set to expire in September 2018, as is funding for maintaining and transporting the items. The materials will then be sent back to Iraq, spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement sent to JTA on Thursday.

Rodriguez said the State Department “is keenly aware of the interest in the status” of the archive.

“Maintaining the archive outside of Iraq is possible,” he said, “but would require a new agreement between the Government of Iraq and a temporary host institution or government.”

No, it doesn’t. The archive doesn’t belong to the Iraqi government, but to the Jewish population that was ethnically cleansed from Iraq.

The United States recovered the archive and should have turned it over to the Jewish community. Instead we had a bizarre Kafkaesque process in which the archive was restored to be turned over to the thieves who stole it.

Jewish political leaders have invested a lot of energy into looted art in Europe. And that’s a worthwhile cause. Yet this is a far more compelling issue. The archive contains the history of a Jewish community. It matters far more than a Klimt painting. Sadly, the priorities are those of a secular Ashkenazi leadership that is uninterested in the Iraqi Jewish archive because it’s Sephardi and religious. Meanwhile the American Sephardi Federation’s Ashkenazi boss Jason Guberman-Pfeffer seems far more interested in defending the hateful anti-Israel prejudices of David N. Myers, than in fighting for the archive.

And, another factor was the reluctance of a largely liberal leadership to stand up to Obama.

The archive is set to be exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Maryland Oct. 15-Jan. 15. The exhibit page says the items include a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Zohar, a Jewish mystical text.

“There is no justification in sending the Jewish archives back to Iraq, a country that has virtually no Jews and no accessibility to Jewish scholars or the descendants of Iraqi Jews,” Gina Waldman, founder and president of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, said Friday in a statement to JTA. “The U.S. government must ensure that the Iraqi archives are returned to its rightful owners, the exiled Iraqi Jewish community,”

Stanley Urman, executive vice president for Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, echoed Waldman in saying there was no justification for sending back the archive.

“This is Jewish communal property. Iraq stole it and kept it hidden away in a basement. Now that we’ve managed to reclaim it, it would be like returning stolen goods back to the thief,” Urman told JTA on Friday.

It’s exactly like it. Meanwhile here’s the bizarre anti-Semitic justification on the Iraqi side for wanting the archive. Here’s Al Arabiya’s explanation

Experts add that Israel is keen on obtaining the manuscripts in order to prove their claim that the Jews had built the Tower of Babel as part of its attempt to distort the history of the Middle East for its own interests.


Harold Rhode, who discovered the trove while working as a Defense Department policy analyst assigned to Iraq’s transitional government, said he is “horrified” to think the material would be returned when it had been “stolen by the government of Iraq from the Jewish community.”

“It would be comparable to the U.S. returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis,” he told The Jewish Week.

It’s exactly like it.

I don’t expect Tillerson to care. Between McMaster at the NSC, Mattis on Defense and Tillerson, foreign policy is under the control of the usual Islam Firsters who are very concerned with Muslim feelings, particularly in the oil states, and very little else. And so the old Obama plan to turn over stolen Jewish religious items to a hostile Islamic regime is moving forward.

But President Trump can and should block the move. It’s the right thing to do. And Jewish activists should make that case.

Originally Published in FrontPageMag.


Why it may weaken US adversaries and strengthen our allies.

If the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan aren’t intimidated into standing down, on September 25, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will go to the polls to vote on a referendum for independence.

The Kurds have been hoping to hold the referendum since 2013.

Whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his support for Kurdish independence earlier this month in a meeting with a delegation of visiting Republican congressmen, the Trump administration has urged Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and his colleagues to postpone the referendum indefinitely. US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who visited with Barzani in the Kurdish capital of Erbil two weeks ago, said that the referendum would harm the campaign against Islamic State.

In his words, “Our point right now is to stay focused like a laser beam on the defeat of ISIS and to let nothing distract us.”

Another line of argument against the Kurdish referendum was advanced several weeks ago by The New York Times editorial board. The Times argued the Kurds aren’t ready for independence. Their government suffers from corruption, their economy is weak, their democratic institutions are weak and their human rights record is far from perfect.

While the Times’ claims have truth to them, the relevant question is compared to what? Compared to their neighbors, not to mention to the Times’ favored group the Palestinians, the Kurds, who have been self-governing since 1991, are paragons of good governance. Not only have they given refuge to tens of thousands of Iraqis fleeing ISIS, Iraqi Kurdistan has been an island of relative peace in a war-torn country since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Its Peshmerga forces have not only secured Kurdistan, they have been the most competent force fighting ISIS since its territorial conquests in 2014.

The same is the case of the Kurdish YPG militia in Syrian Kurdistan.

As for Mattis’s argument that the referendum, and any subsequent moves to secede from Iraq, would harm the campaign against ISIS, the first question is whether he is right.

If Mattis is concerned that the referendum will diminish Iranian and Turkish support for the campaign, then his concern is difficult to defend.

Turkey has never been a significant player in the anti-ISIS campaign. Indeed, until recently, Turkey served as ISIS’s logistical base.

As for Iran, this week Iranian-controlled Hezbollah and Lebanese military forces struck a deal to permit ISIS fighters they defeated along the Lebanese-Syrian border to safely transit Syria to ISIS-held areas along the Syrian border with Iraq. In other words, far from cooperating with the US and its allies against ISIS, Iran and its underlings are fighting a separate war to take ISIS out of their areas of influence while enabling ISIS to fight the US and its allies in other areas.

This then brings us to the real question that the US should be asking itself in relation to the Kurdish referendum. That question is whether an independent Kurdistan would advance or harm US strategic interests in the region.

Since the US and Russia concluded their cease-fire deal for Syria on July 7, Netanyahu has used every opportunity to warn that the cease-fire is a disaster.

In the interest of keeping Mattis’s “laser focus” on fighting ISIS, the US surrendered its far greater strategic interest of preventing Iran and its proxies from taking over the areas that ISIS controlled – such as the Syrian-Lebanese border and the tri-border area between Iraq, Syria and Jordan. As Netanyahu warns at every opportunity, Iran and its proxies are moving into all the areas being liberated from ISIS.

And Iran isn’t the only concern from either an Israeli or an American perspective. Turkey is also a looming threat, which will only grow if it isn’t contained.

Turkey’s rapidly accelerating anti-American trajectory is now unmistakable.

Last week during Mattis’s visit to Ankara, Turkish- supported militias in northern Syria opened fire on US forces. Not only did Turkey fail to apologize, Turkey condemned the US for retaliating against the attackers.

Moreover, last week, Turkish authorities announced they are charging US pastor Andrew Brunson with espionage, membership in a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy Turkey’s constitutional order and overthrow its parliament.

Brunson was arrested last October.

Whereas until last year’s failed military coup against the regime of President Recep Erdogan, Turkey demonstrated a firm interest in remaining a member of NATO and a strategic ally of the US, since the failed coup, Turkey has signaled that it at best, it is considering its options. US generals say that since the failed coup, they have almost no one to talk to in the Turkish military. Their interlocutors are either under arrest or too afraid to speak to them.

The regime and its supporters express both neo-Ottoman and neo-colonial aspirations, both of which place Turkey on a collision course with the US.

For instance, Melih Ecertas, the head of Erdogan AK Party’s youth wing, proclaimed that Erdogan is not merely the president of Turkey, rather he is “president of all the world’s Muslims.

So, too, Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi called Erdogan “the hope of all Muslims and of Islam.”

Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar and is Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel’s superstar preacher, has good reason to love Erdogan.

In June, Erdogan decided to make a strategic move to protect the pro-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-Iranian Qatari regime from its angry neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia. Turkey’s deployment of forces to Doha stalled the Saudi-led campaign against the Qatari regime.

If the regime survives, and if world oil prices continue to drop and so weaken Saudi economic power, Turkey’s decision to deploy its forces to Qatar could be the first step toward realizing its neo-Ottoman ambitions.

As for neo-imperialism, last October Foreign Policy reported that Turkish television now uses a map from 1918 to define Turkey’s current borders. From 1918 through 1920, Turkish territory included large portions of Iraq, among them Kurdistan and Mosul, as well as large swaths of Syria, including Aleppo.

Foreign Policy reported that use of the map indicates that as the post-World War I map of the Middle East becomes obsolete, Erdogan sees an opportunity to expand Turkish territory.

Then there are Erdogan’s moves to build strategic ties with Russia and Iran.

Last November the NATO member announced it is negotiating the purchase of an S-400 air defense system from Russia.

As for Iran, last week Maj.-Gen, Mohammad Hossein Baghari, Iran’s chief of General Staff, paid the first official visit by an Iranian army chief to Turkey since the 1979 revolution. Baghari met not only by his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, but with Erdogan as well.

Erdogan said after the meeting that he and Baghari discussed possible joint military action against the Kurds in northern Iraq, Syria and Iran.

In his words, “Joint action against terrorist groups that have become a threat is always on the agenda.This issue has been discussed between the two military chiefs, and I discussed more broadly how this should be carried out.”

Baghari was more explicit. He effectively announced that Iran and Turkey will respond with force to the Kurdish referendum.


“Both sides stressed that if the [Kurdish] referendum would be held, it will be the basis for the start of a series of tensions and conflicts inside Iraq, the consequences of which will affect neighboring countries.”

Baghari continued, “Holding the referendum will get Iraq, but also Iran and Turkey involved and that’s why the authorities of the two countries emphasize that it is not possible and should not be done.”


This then brings us back to Israel and the US and why Netanyahu is right to support Kurdish independence and the Trump administration is wrong to oppose it.

So long as there is no significant change in the nature of the Iranian and Turkish regimes, their empowerment will come at the expense of the US, Israel and the Arab Sunni states.

The Kurds, with their powerful and experienced military forces in Iraq and Syria alike, constitute a significant check on both Iranian and Turkish power.

Several commentators argue that the Turks will respond to the Kurdish referendum by waging a war of annihilation against the Kurds in Iraq and beyond. Iran, they warn, will assist in Turkish efforts.

As far as Iran is concerned, in the near future, its central effort will remain in Syria. As for Turkey, whereas Erdogan and his followers may wish to undertake such a campaign, today it hard to imagine them succeeding.

A year after the failed coup, the Turkish military is astounding observers with its incompetent performance in Syria. Despite the fact that Turkish forces are fighting in Syria in areas adjacent to their border, they are unable to competently project their force.

Turkey’s underperformance in Syria makes clear that the Turkish armed forces, which Erdogan gutted in his purges of the officer and NCO corps in the wake of the failed coup, have not rebuilt their strength.

According to an analysis by Al-Monitor published last September, the first four rounds of purges in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup reduced the number of general officers by nearly 40%. The ratio of pilots to aircraft in the Turkish Air Force was reduced from more than three pilots per plane to less than one pilot per plane.

While Al-Monitor assessed last year that it would take up to two years for the Turkish Air Force to rebuild its pilot corps, last week it appeared that two years was a gross underestimation of the time required.

Last week the US rejected a Turkish request to have Pakistani pilots fly Turkish F-16s. The request owed to the critical shortage of pilots in the Turkish Air Force.

And Erdogan continues to purge his generals. In early August he sacked the commanders of Turkish land forces and the Turkish Navy.

Given the current state of Turkish forces on the one hand, and the battlefield competence of Kurdish forces, it is clear that the balance of the two forces has never been better for the Kurds.

If Kurdistan becomes independent with US and Israeli backing and survives, the implications for the longevity of the Erdogan regime, given the rapidly expanding size of the Kurdish minority in Turkey, are significant.

Likewise for Iran, an independent Kurdistan in Iraq will serve to contain Iranian power in Syria and potentially destabilize the Iranian regime at home.

In summary then, opponents of Kurdish independence are correct. An independent Kurdistan will destabilize the region. But contrary to their claims, this is a good thing. For the first time since 2009, destabilization will benefit the US and Israel and weaken Iran and Turkey.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Baghdad Threatens Force to Keep Kurdistan in Iraq

As the Kurdistan Regional Government’s September 25th referendum on independence fast approaches, Baghdad has begun to warn the KRG that it is willing to us force to keep Iraq unified.

Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hayali said the following while on a trip to Iran aimed at strengthening cooperation:

“The army will intervene to prevent any attempts or illegal measures aimed at dividing the country.”

Irfan al-Hayali  later denied the statements and said they had been mistranslated.


Kurdistan has been a long time coming and many believe that the Bush 2 administration was pushing for an eventual split from Iraq. “The people of the Kurdistan Region have the right to decide on their future peacefully,” President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani has repeatedly stated.

Although the US has often said it supports an eventual independent Kurdistan, recent comments suggest a subtle backtracking from outward support. The US fears a drive towards independence now will complicate its relationship with Baghdad and formerly push it into the arms of Iran.

Iran’s State News Agency reported the following:

Iran and Iraq on Sunday signed deals aimed at boosting military and defense cooperation during a visit by Baghdad’s Defense Minister Irfan al-Hayali to Tehran. In a memorandum of understanding, signed by Hayali and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Dehghan.

With the ties already growing the US may need to jettison its current policy and support Kurdistan openly. The coming referendum will put the USA to the test on whether it really wants to stop Iran or not.