Kurds celebrate to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Erbil, Iraq September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
Kurds celebrate to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Erbil. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Brett McGurk warns of 'consequences out of US control' if Kurds hold referendum

US special envoy in the anti-ISIL campaign Brett McGurk left no room for doubt that Washington opposes Kurdistan’s bid for independence in a referendum on Monday, saying that it holds enormous “risks” and could bring “consequences we [the US] don’t fully control”.

In a briefing with reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday, Mr McGurk said negotiations were continuing to convince Iraq’s Kurdistan region leader Massoud Barzani to seek “an alternative” for the referendum, which according to the senior US official “holds very high risks which the US cannot control”.

“There is a very good package on the table” Mr McGurk said, and the US is “in close contacts with leaders in the region who are very close friends and partners” to reach an alternative. Asked by The National on what are the consequences if such a referendum were to take place, Mr McGurk reiterated that there may be ramifications that “we don’t fully control.” In speaking about this issue, the US envoy twice referenced Donald Trump’s meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong opponent of the referendum.

Despite US concerns about the Barzani plan, Mr McGurk offered an optimistic outlook on the fight against ISIL following a meeting for the global coalition in New York, headed by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and attended by 24 member states.

In terms of numbers, Mr McGurk said 80,000 square kilometres have been liberated from ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and that 4 million Iraqis and 2.2 million Syrians no longer live under control of the extremist group. One third of that territory has been liberated since Mr Trump took office in January. After the liberation of Mosul, Mr McGurk said the US and the coalition “see an end in sight” in Raqqa, ISIL’s last stronghold. “We have to focus on getting ISIL out of Raqqa – in the last three neighborhoods, as soon as military phase concluded, we have 100 sites for de-mining identified” he said.

The US envoy sounded optimistic on the diplomatic front, and in speaking about the improvement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. “It’s a sea change” Mr McGurk said, echoing comments from Saudi Foreign minister Adel Jubeir and his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari in the meeting on rapprochement between Riyadh and Baghdad. “A lot of work to get to this point – they already opened one border crossing and close to opening another one and are operating direct flights” he said.

Economically, the Saudi-Iraqi thaw in relations “opens a commerce route into heart of the Red Sea – we are encouraged by it” said the envoy as well as its impact on Anbar province, and in addition to $1 billion commerce route from Amman to Baghdad that recently opened. “We are ensuring the route remains opened,” he said.

Mr McGurk announced that Kuwait will be hosting reconstruction conference for Iraq early next year while tying any reconstruction efforts in Syria to the political process.

The US envoy voiced high level of confidence in the Syrian Democratic Forces, saying “areas taken from ISIL [in Syria] will remain in local control” and that the population “prefers SDF to Assad forces.” He emphasised that talks with Russia involve deconfliction in these areas and that “both sides want to avoid accidents.”

In Mosul he said the focus is on “stabilisation” and that 97 per cent are back to East Mosul while the Western part of the city remains more difficult.

Mr McGurk saw better odds for stability in the anti-ISIL fight because of the new diplomatic arrangements in the region and the military advances on the ground. “We can not be fatigued” he said “we have to follow through.”

The biog

Age: 23

Occupation: Founder of the Studio, formerly an analyst at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Education: Bachelor of science in industrial engineering

Favourite hobby: playing the piano

Favourite quote: "There is a key to every door and a dawn to every dark night"

Family: Married and with a daughter

Turning waste into fuel

Average amount of biofuel produced at DIC factory every month: Approximately 106,000 litres

Amount of biofuel produced from 1 litre of used cooking oil: 920ml (92%)

Time required for one full cycle of production from used cooking oil to biofuel: One day

Energy requirements for one cycle of production from 1,000 litres of used cooking oil:
▪ Electricity - 1.1904 units
▪ Water- 31 litres
▪ Diesel – 26.275 litres


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

How to register as a donor

1) Organ donors can register on the Hayat app, run by the Ministry of Health and Prevention

2) There are about 11,000 patients in the country in need of organ transplants

3) People must be over 21. Emiratis and residents can register. 

4) The campaign uses the hashtag  #donate_hope

Four motivational quotes from Alicia's Dubai talk

“The only thing we need is to know that we have faith. Faith and hope in our own dreams. The belief that, when we keep going we’re going to find our way. That’s all we got.”

“Sometimes we try so hard to keep things inside. We try so hard to pretend it’s not really bothering us. In some ways, that hurts us more. You don’t realise how dishonest you are with yourself sometimes, but I realised that if I spoke it, I could let it go.”

“One good thing is to know you’re not the only one going through it. You’re not the only one trying to find your way, trying to find yourself, trying to find amazing energy, trying to find a light. Show all of yourself. Show every nuance. All of your magic. All of your colours. Be true to that. You can be unafraid.”

“It’s time to stop holding back. It’s time to do it on your terms. It’s time to shine in the most unbelievable way. It’s time to let go of negativity and find your tribe, find those people that lift you up, because everybody else is just in your way.”

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).


Director: Lulu Wang

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Sarayu Blue, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, Jack Huston

Rating: 4/5

Veil (Object Lessons)
Rafia Zakaria
​​​​​​​Bloomsbury Academic

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★


Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

If you go...

Fly from Dubai or Abu Dhabi to Chiang Mai in Thailand, via Bangkok, before taking a five-hour bus ride across the Laos border to Huay Xai. The land border crossing at Huay Xai is a well-trodden route, meaning entry is swift, though travellers should be aware of visa requirements for both countries.

Flights from Dubai start at Dh4,000 return with Emirates, while Etihad flights from Abu Dhabi start at Dh2,000. Local buses can be booked in Chiang Mai from around Dh50

Most Read
Top Videos