Daily Archives: July 14, 2014

The CIA in the New Kurdistan

ebril internatioal airport

Western contractors hired to expand the facility and a local intelligence official confirmed the construction project, which is visible from the main highway linking Erbil/Irbil to Mosul, the city whose fall June 10, 2014 triggered the Islamic State’s sweep through northern and central Iraq. Residents around the airport say they can hear daily what they suspect are U.S. drones taking off and landing at the facility.  Expansion of the facility comes as it seems all but certain that the autonomous Kurdish regional government and the central government in Baghdad, never easy partners, are headed for an irrevocable split — complicating any U.S. military hopes of coordinating the two entities’ efforts against the Islamic State…

The peshmerga Kurds has worked closely over the years with the CIA, U.S. Special Forces and the Joint Special Operations Command, the military’s most secretive task force, which has become a bulwark of counterterrorism operations. Peshmerga forces already are staffing checkpoints and bunkers to protect the CIA station, which sits a few hundred yards from the highway.

“Within a week of the fall of Mosul we were being told to double or even triple our capacities,” said one Western logistics contractor who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’d signed nondisclosure agreements with the U.S. government on the matter.  “They needed everything from warehouse space to refrigeration capacity, because they operate under a different logistics command than the normal military or embassy structures,” the contractor said. “The expansion was aggressive and immediate.”…The local Kurdish intelligence official described what was taking place as a “long-term relationship with the Americans.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said July 3, 2014 that Irbil would host such a center, in addition to one being set up in Baghdad, and suggested it had already begun operating. “We have personnel on the ground in Irbil, where our second joint operations center has achieved initial operating capability,” he said then.

The Kurdish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “It’s no secret that the American special forces and CIA have a close relationship with the peshmerga.” He added that the facility had operated even “after the Americans were forced out of Iraq by al-Maliki,” a reference to the 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal after the Obama administration and the Iraqi government couldn’t agree on a framework for U.S. forces to remain in the country.

The official refused to directly identify the location of the facility but when he was shown the blurred-out location on an online satellite-mapping service he joked: “The peshmerga do not have the influence to make Google blur an area on these maps. I will leave the rest to your conclusions.

Expansion of ‘secret’ CIA post suggests closer U.S.-Kurd ties, Seattle Times, July 11, 2014

How to Build an Independent State: Kurdistan

Large oil field near the city of Kirkuk

Kurdish peshmerga forces are said to have seized control of production facilities at the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oil fields in the north of the country.Kurdish MPs have also withdrawn from Iraq’s central government.  They did so after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki accused the Kurds of harbouring extremists.  Kurdish forces have moved into areas of north-western Iraq abandoned by the Iraqi army during the advance of Islamist insurgents led by the Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) group over the past month…

The Kurds have since declared plans to hold a referendum on independence in the areas seized, escalating tensions with Iraq’s central authorities.  In a statement on Friday, the Iraqi oil ministry condemned the seizure of oil refineries, adding that they expected Kurdish fighters to “support security forces in confronting terrorist groups rather than using the conditions to raid and occupy oil fields”.  Reuters news agency said a senior source within the Kurdistan Regional Government had confirmed the takeover.

The unnamed source said they had been “forced to act to protect Iraq’s infrastructure after learning of attempts by Iraq oil ministry officials to sabotage it”….The two oilfields are said to have a combined daily output capacity of some 400,000 barrels per day, AFP quotes a ministry spokesman as saying.

The Kurdish minority in Iraq managed to establish an autonomous region in the north in 2005 after decades of political and military efforts to seek self-rule…Leader of the Kurdish region of Iraq Massoud Barzani: “The goal of Kurdistan is independence”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who is himself a Kurdish politician, told Reuters news agency on Friday that the Kurdish political bloc had suspended all day-to-day government business after Mr Maliki’s remarks.  He said the country risked division if an inclusive government was not formed soon, adding: “The country is now divided literally into three states – Kurdish, a black state [Isis] and Baghdad.”

Iraq conflict: Kurds seize two oilfields in north, BBC, Juy 12, 2014