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Daily Brief: Iraqi Forces Launch Offensive in Kurdish-Held Kirkuk


Council on Foreign Relations Newsletter If you are unable to see the message below, click here to view. October 16, 2017 Daily News Brief   TOP OF THE AGENDA Iraqi Forces Launch Offensive in Kurdish-Held Kirkuk Casualties have been reported in the Kurdish-held Iraqi city of Kirkuk as forces from the central government backed by Shia militias (Al Jazeera) launched a major offensive early Monday to take the city.  The operation marks the first use of force by Baghdad (NYT) in response to an independence referendum held in the autonomous Kurdistan region last month that was opposed by the Iraqi and U.S. governments. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he is fulfilling his duty to protect "the unity of the country" (Rudaw), while Iraqi forces claim they have taken control of some areas including Kirkuk's K-1 military base. The multiethnic city has been under Kurdish control since 2014 following the removal of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Bloomberg) there. ANALYSIS "The flare-up presents an awkward dilemma for the United States, which has trained and equipped the advancing Iraqi troops, which include elite counterterrorism forces, and the Kurdish peshmerga on the other side," Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim write for the Washington Post. "The [Kurdistan Regional Government] has for years made its claim to Kirkuk clear in words and actions. U.S. oil companies, including ExxonMobil, have given stature to such claims by signing oil exploration deals with the KRG for oil fields in disputed territories," writes CFR's Amy Myers Jaffe. "Arab communities have felt strongly about [Kirkuk], believing the lands should remain the home to Christian, Yazidi, Shabak, and Turkmen communities displaced by the Islamic State," Suadad al-Salhy writes for Middle East Eye. PACIFIC RIM U.S. to Carry Out Evacuation Drills in South Korea The United States said Monday it will practice evacuating noncombatant Americans (NYT) from South Korea as the countries begin a week of military drills (Korea Times). North Korea has denounced the drills as preparation for an invasion. CFR's Scott A. Snyder and Sungtae "Jacky" Park write that the United States and allies have the means for stable deterrence on the Korean Peninsula. PHILIPPINES: Two suspected militant leaders have been killed in the Philippine government's months-long siege of the southern city of Marawi. One of those killed in the operation was on the U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists (WSJ) for involvement in kidnappings and murders.  SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA Kyrgyzstan's Ruling Party on Course for Election Win Preliminary results show Sooronbai Jeenbekov of the ruling Social Democratic Party winning Kyrgyzstan's presidential election (Eurasia) with 55 percent of votes. The vote marks the first peaceful transfer of power (BBC) between democratically elected leaders since the country gained independence in 1991. PAKISTAN: A roadside bomb killed at least four Pakistani soldiers (VOA) on Sunday. Islamabad said the servicemen were part of an operation to locate the handlers of an American-Canadian family that had been held by militants for five years (WSJ) and was rescued last week. MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA Afghan Peace Talks Begin in Oman Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States are meeting in Oman on Monday to discuss a political settlement to the Afghan conflict (VOA) after a sixteen-month pause on such talks. A senior Taliban official said the militant group has "nothing to do" with the negotiations. Daniel Byman and Steven Simon discuss the difficulty in ending the war in Afghanistan in Foreign Affairs. SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA Mogadishu Bombing Death Toll Tops Three Hundred More than three hundred people have died following twin explosions near government offices (WSJ) and the African Union mission in Mogadishu and in a nearby suburb on Saturday. France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and others have condemned the attack. Turkey said some of the wounded would be flown into the country (Al Jazeera) for medical treatment. LIBERIA: Liberia will hold a presidential election runoff (BBC) between former soccer player George Weah and Vice President Joseph Boakai next month following a first round of voting last Tuesday. EUROPE Austria Shifts Right With Parliamentary Elections After six decades of centrist governments, the conservative People's Party took 32 percent of votes (VOA) in parliamentary elections on Sunday, while the far-right Freedom Party took 27 percent. Sebastian Kurz of the People's Party is expected to become the world's youngest national leader (BBC) at thirty-one. Franz-Stefan Gady discusses the "respectable populism" behind the conservative win in Austria in Foreign Affairs. SPAIN: Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said in a letter to Spain's central government (FT) he maintains his stance that the region's declaration of independence is "in suspension." Madrid has set a Thursday deadline (DW) for Catalonia to abandon its push for independence. R. Joseph Huddleston discusses how Madrid should address the independence vote in Catalonia in Foreign Affairs. AMERICAS Venezuelan Government Claims Regional Election Wins President Nicolas Maduro's ruling socialist party claimed wins in seventeen of the country's twenty-three gubernatorial elections (Guardian) held Sunday. The opposition has called for an audit of all the races.  UNITED STATES California Reports Wildfires 'More Than Half' Contained A California firefighting spokesman said wildfires that have raged across northern California over the last week are now more than half contained (USA Today). Some ten thousand firefighters are combating the blazes (DW), in which at least forty people have died. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy is in good health (NYT) and that "ongoing strength" will soon warrant a raise in interest rates.         Council on Foreign Relations — 58 East 68th Street — New York, NY 10065 CFR does not share email addresses with third parties. Forward This Email | Subscribe to CFR Newsletters | Unsubscribe - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  


Date: October 16, 2017 at 10:02PM