Massoud Barzani claims era of Sykes-Picot is over and a new international agreement is needed for the Middle East … see below.

Biden: PKK is terror group ‘plain and simple,’ threat to Turkey like ISIL | Hürriyet Daily News |

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Jan. 23 that Washington recognized the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey was as much of a threat to Ankara as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL), condemning it as “a terror group plain and simple.”

ISIL “is not the only existential threat to the people of Turkey, the PKK is equally a threat and we are aware of that. The PKK has shown no desire or inclination to do that [live in peace]. It is a terrorist group plain and simple. And what they continue to do is absolutely outrageous,” Biden said at a news conference after a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, adding that Ankara had to do whatever was needed to protect its people.

“We do agree with you that in terms of their actions Daesh [ISIL], PKK and (Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate) al-Nusra… are simply terrorist groups,” said Biden.

Biden said Turkey and the United States were coordinating ever more precisely on what is a “shared mission on the extermination of ISIL.”  He praised Turkey for taking “very important steps to improve the security of its border” from ISIL militants.

Biden also said that the United States and Turkey were prepared for a military solution in Syria against ISIL if a political settlement was not possible.

“We do know it would better if we can reach a political solution but we are prepared …, if that’s not possible, to have a military solution to this operation and taking out Daesh,” Biden said.

Biden said he and Davutoğlu also discussed how the two NATO allies could further support Sunni Arab rebel forces fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Davutoğlu said Turkey sees three threats in Syria: “One is the regime, another is Daesh, and third is YPG [People’s Defense Units, the armed forces of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in northern Syria].” Davutoğlu said only the “legitimate Syrian opposition” should be involved with negotiations over Syria.

“Turkey sees no difference between terrorists groups such as Daesh, PKK, DHKP-C [the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front] or al-Nusra,” said Davutoğlu.

[Did President Erdoğan and Turkish PM Davutoğlu take lessons from former US President Bush and Israel’s PM Netanyahu by equating groups fighting for its independence to terrorists? See my recent essay on military policy, violence and the use of the terror threat.]

Iraqi Kurdistan president: time has come to redraw Middle East boundaries | The Guardian |

The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north has called on global leaders to acknowledge that the Sykes-Picot pact that led to the boundaries of the modern Middle East has failed, and urged them to broker a new deal paving the way for a Kurdish state.

Masoud Barzani, who has led the troubled country’s Kurds for the past decade, said the international community had started to accept that Iraq and Syria in particular would never again be unified and that “compulsory co-existence” in the region had been proven wrong.

    “I think that within themselves, [world leaders] have come to this conclusion that the era of Sykes-Picot is over. Whether they say it or not, accept it or not, the reality on the ground is that. But as you know, diplomats are conservatives and they give their assessment in the late stages of things. And sometimes they can’t even keep up with developments.”

The political map of northern Iraq has changed drastically in the 18 months since Islamic State overran Iraq’s second city, Mosul. Kurdish forces are now in full control of Kirkuk and Sinjar and have claimed control of thousands more miles of land that had been under control of Iraq’s central government.

Now, four months before the centennial of the Sykes-Picot agreement under which Britain and France carved spheres of influence from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, Barzani said maintaining the status quo would ensure further regional disintegration and destruction.

Kerry meets with GCC ministers in Riyadh in hopes to ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran | Gulf News |

The kingdom and its Gulf neighbours perceive a lack of US engagement in the region, particularly in the face of what they see as Iran’s “interference” in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Kerry has long sought to reassure his Gulf allies about the overtures to Iran, and will continue those efforts in Riyadh.
Kerry and Al Jubeir spoke after they attended meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.

Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday hoping for an easing of tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.The US chief diplomat is also scheduled to meet with top officials of the Syrian opposition ahead of UN-sponsored peace talks with the regime of President Bashar Al Assad.

He will hold talks with King Salman and his powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who is the defence minister.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, have caused concern around the globe. China, France and Pakistan have all sought a de-escalation.

“Khamanei’s remarks, I think from our perspective, are extremely noteworthy,” the State Department official said.

“And hopefully, maybe that will open up the possibility that the situation will resolve and that the Saudis will find their way forward in reopening their embassy in Tehran.”

On Tuesday Saudi Arabia issued a 58-point “fact sheet” which it said illustrates “Iran’s aggressive policies” over nearly four decades.

Saudi Arabia and Iran support opposite sides in the Syria and Yemen wars.

But the State Department official said “one of the things that we think is relatively positive” is that neither Iran nor Saudi wants the bilateral problems to affect issues like Syrian peace negotiations.

Anti-ISIS coalition members doing ‘nothing at all’: Pentagon chief

Several members of the US-led coalition attacking ISIS group in Iraq and Syria are doing “nothing at all” to help destroy the jihadists, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters Friday.

His comments mark a departure from the Pentagon’s typical depiction of the 65-member coalition, which carries the slogan “One mission, many nations,” and is frequently touted to highlight global resolve in the predominantly US effort to defeat ISIS group.

“Many of them are not doing enough, or are doing nothing at all,” Carter said in an interview with CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We can do a lot ourselves … (but) we are looking for other people to play their part.”

In a separate interview with Bloomberg TV, Carter called the anti-ISIS alliance a “so-called” coalition, highlighting frustrations the Pentagon has with partners — particularly Arab and Gulf nations — not doing enough.

“We need others to carry their weight, there should be no free riders,” he said.

Carter has spent the past week in Europe, primarily in Paris, where he sought to persuade allies to step up their efforts against ISIS group.

On Friday, Carter reiterated calls for one of these partners, Turkey, to bolster its fight against the jihadists.

Turkey is allowing the United States to use Incirlik, a geographically vital air base in the south, to strike ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, but Carter said Ankara needs to do much more to secure its lengthy border with Syria.

Ahead of November 1 election, Erdogan boosts military action against Kurds in southeast and Northern Iraq

See my earlier diaries, no surprise how global affairs evolved around Middle East …

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