Ramzy Mardini

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Iraqi Kurds rally to urge people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on Sept. 16. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sept. 25, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is expected to hold its long-awaited referendum on independence. While it has generated much nationalist excitement among Kurds in the KRI capital of Irbil and abroad, the central government in Baghdad and the international community have objected to the vote. The United States has mobilized diplomatic capital to persuade Irbil to postpone the vote. Last week, Western diplomats offered an alternative proposal: Postpone the vote and enter into new mediated negotiations with Baghdad. But without ironclad guarantees or a specified timetable, Irbil has rejected those initiatives, continuing to prepare for the referendum.…  Seguir leyendo »

President of the Iraqi Kurdistan region Masoud Barzani attends a joint news conference in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq, on Jan. 8. (Gailan Haji/European Pressphoto Agency)

Amid the backdrop of a fight against the Islamic State, the Kurdistan region of Iraq plans to hold an important vote to determine its direction on statehood. Earlier this month, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani announced that a long-awaited referendum on independence would be held Sept. 25, 2017. Importantly, the vote will not only take place within the borders of the Kurdistan region, but also within disputed territories that are now under de facto Kurdish control since their liberation from the Islamic State.

Barzani has called for a referendum many times before, but this time an official date has been set and the vote will probably take place.…  Seguir leyendo »

Peshmerga forces during an operation to liberate villages under the control of the Islamic State southeast of Mosul, Iraq, in August. Andrea Dicenzo/European Pressphoto Agency

A military push to recapture Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the rest of Nineveh Province from the Islamic State is expected soon. Unfortunately, even if the campaign is successful, the liberation of Mosul will not stabilize the country. Nor will conquest resolve the underlying conditions that originally fueled the extremist insurgency.

Instead, the legacy of the Islamic State, or ISIS, will endure. Its rise and fall have altered the country’s society and politics in irreversible ways that threaten future cycles of conflict. Throughout history, victorious wars have often forged national identities, expanded state power and helped centralize political authority. But the war against the Islamic State is having the opposite effect: fragmentation.…  Seguir leyendo »

An image grab taken from a propaganda video by the Islamic State militant group. (AFP/Getty Images)

The United States has a tradition of misinterpreting the Middle East. President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 with misplaced certainty, misconstrued assumptions and poor foresight. After the Arab revolts began in 2011, Washington misdiagnosed the problems and opportunities, and overestimated its influence to steer outcomes in its favor. Now, as the United States prepares to escalate military action against the Islamic State, misinterpretation is leading to another tragic foreign policy mistake.

In his prime-time address Wednesday, President Obama said that U.S. airstrikes targeting militants in Iraq over the past month “have protected American personnel and facilities, killed [Islamic State] fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

The last time Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, visited the White House, in December 2011, it was on a hopeful note. President Obama and he had just ended the eight-year U.S. military occupation, aiming to turn the page and establish a normal relationship between two sovereign nations.

But Mr. Maliki didn’t hold up his end of the partnership. Mr. Obama praised his guest as “the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq,” only to see Mr. Maliki return to Baghdad and begin an authoritarian crackdown against Sunni Arab political leaders — members of the power-sharing government backed by the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

According to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama risks looking like a “fool” if he decides not to intervene militarily in Syria’s continuing civil war. Likening the situation to his decision to intervene in Kosovo in 1999, Mr. Clinton said Tuesday that if he hadn’t used force to stop Serbia’s campaign of ethnic cleansing, critics might have said: “You could have stopped this by dropping a few bombs. Why didn’t you do it?” Mr. Clinton believes that Mr. Obama could end up looking like a “total wuss” if he doesn’t intervene. And it seems he’s going act.

The recent recapture of the strategic town of Qusair by forces loyal to the government of Bashar al-Assad and the White House’s public acknowledgment that chemical weapons have been employed by the Syrian regime — thereby crossing a “red line” — persuaded Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the Syrian revolution approaches another anniversary, Syria’s political opposition is showing signs of failure. Without a new approach, especially from America, the lack of a credible opposition will render a political settlement unreachable, making it harder to set Syria on the course toward a stable future.

Hoping for a more representative body than the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council, President Obama and other world leaders recognized, in December, a new opposition coalition formed in Doha, Qatar. But that 71-member coalition, which includes many S.N.C. members, isn’t willing to negotiate with the Syrian government, nor is it remotely prepared to assume power.…  Seguir leyendo »