KRG President Massoud Barzani's trip to Turkey:
The leader of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, has lent his full support to the Turkish government’s peace bid during a joint rally with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Diyarbakır today.
“My request from my Kurdish and Turkish brothers is to support the peace project. I want to tell them that we support the peace process with all our force,” Barzani told the crowd during his first official visit to southeastern Turkey.
“The time in the Middle East for living together has come. We can carry our people to happier days if we follow the methods of living together. Wars have been tried. The days when the blood of a young Turkish man was spilled by a Kurdish youth or the blood of a young Kurdish man was spilled by a Turkish youth are over,” Barzani said.
The Iraqi Kurdish leader finished his speech with a few words in Turkish. “Long live Turkish and Kurdish brotherhood. Long live peace. Long live freedom,” Barzani said.
And in case Nouri misses it at Hurriyet, Iran's Trend News Agency also picked up the story. KUNA hails it as "a historic visit." PUK Media quotes from Barzani's speech:
My request from my Kurdish and Turkish brothers is to support the peace project. I want to tell them that we support the peace process with all our force. The time in the Middle East for living together has come. We can carry our people to happier days if we follow the methods of living together. Wars have been tried. The days when the blood of a young Turkish man was spilled by a Kurdish youth or the blood of a young Kurdish man was spilled by a Turkish youth are over.
Xinhua offers an analysis which includes:
Ankara hoped that strengthening ties with Barzani may put Turkey in a better position in northern Syria, where the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of Turkey's outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), allegedly backed by Tehran and Damascus, has been fighting against other armed groups.
Turkey feared that the PYD may pose a serious threat to its national security.
Barzani, who maintained his position with landslide victory in recent elections in northern Iraq, has its own problems with the PYD. He does not want to see Kurds aligned with himself to be marginalized by the PYD in Syria.
Tension has increased when the PYD announced this week of an interim administration that will likely lead to an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria. Ankara reacted strongly against the declaration.
"There is clearly an overlap of mutual interests here," Mesut Cevikalp, a Turkish analyst in the capital of Ankara, told Xinhua.
"Neither Erdogan nor Barzani wants to see the PYD, an ally of the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime, to dominate power in the north of Syria. Hence they join forces to prevent that from happening," he explained.
Barzani is President of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- the semi-autonomous northern region -- thus far the only semi-autonomous region of Iraq. Thus far.
Aso Fishagi (Rudaw) reports:
Local authorities in Iraq’s southern Basra province have threatened to break away from the central government in Baghdad and create an autonomous region of their own.
The warning comes as the country is grappling with increasing violence and Baghdad is failing to deliver basic services to the province.
In the north, Iraq’s Kurds run their own autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The idea of an autonomous Basra was rekindled by MP Wail Abd al-Latif, who told Rudaw that, “Efforts toward making Basra an autonomous region is a project and not a trump card against the central government.”
He noted that this project has been in the making for a number of years and conforms fully to the Iraqi constitution.
Alsumaria adds that the Basra Provincial Council plans to sue Nouri al-Maliki (prime minister of Iraq) if they do not have an answer on their request within 15 days.
Let's move over to violence for a moment, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Falluja armed attack left 1 police officer injured, 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in Mosul, All Iraq News reports, "Unidentified gunmen assassinated a chieftain's son in Madain district of southern Baghdad." Press TV adds, "Two separate bombings hit police patrols in Baghdad on Saturday, killing three policemen and injuring 11 people, local officials said. Unknown gunmen also opened fire on a police checkpoint in Mosul and killed one policeman and wounded another." Through Saturday, Iraq Body Count counts 353 violent deahts in the month so far.
While Massoud Barzani was standing on the international stage and garnering applause, Nouri was stuck in a pit of his own making. It's a sinking pit, in fact, and Nouri's State of Law is increasingly unpopular. Ur is one of the cities that has been flooded this week. All Iraq News reports State of Law MP Saad al-Matiabi visited UR today only to have, his words, "About five or seven persons attacked my motorcade and they destroyed the vehicle of the bodyguards and broke the glass of the vehicle." Later, he states, his convoy was fired upon. This is only a surprise if you haven't been paying attention. All week long, it has built as an election issue -- and elections are supposedly going to take place in April, not that far away. More bad news for Nouri, heavy rains are expected in Iraq from Monday through Thursday. Juma Abdulla (Iraq Times) compares Baghdad to Venice (due to Baghdad's flooding) and sees it being the result of neglect, calls the streets "floating swamps" and see it as the result of gross mismanagement. In a bit of good news for State of Law, NINA reports cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has clarified for any confused that he opposed Nouri al-Maliki having a third term -- he is not opposing any other member of State of Law becoming the next prime minister.
The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Cindy Sheehan, the Guardian and the Pacifica Evening News -- have updated since yesterday evening:
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