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In Iraq, Clues to Long-Lost Temple Emerge

Doctoral student works amid threat of ISIS attack in Kurdistan

(Newser) - An archaeologist is closing in on the location of an ancient temple so venerated that when it was sacked in 714 BC, its king tore off his crown, "pulled out his hair, pounded his chest with both hands"—then killed himself, according to an early account. The long-lost... More »

Iraq Breaking Apart: Kurds Plan Independence Vote

90 walk out of parliament meeting

(Newser) - With Iraq divided by violence , its Kurdish region is ready to consider forging a nation of its own. Massoud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, says he's planning a referendum on independence that could occur in "a matter of months," the BBC reports. Kurdistan has... More »

Iraq Loses Control of 2nd City

State Dept. calls ISIS 'threat to entire region'

(Newser) - Stability is deteriorating quickly in Iraq, where officials are confirming that Islamist militants have seized control of a second city, Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. Officials tell the AP that the provincial governor based in Tikrit is missing, while the New York Times notes that militants encountered precious little... More »

Archeologists Find Ancient City in Iraq

Better still, Idu was found in the north, where digs are rare

(Newser) - Introducing the city of Idu, a once-thriving metropolis in what is now northern Iraq. Archeologists discovered its ruins beneath a mound in the Kurdistan region and say Idu was a major city about 3,000 years ago, reports LiveScience . It belonged to the Assyrian Empire, except for a relatively brief... More »

20K Syrian Refugees Flood Iraq in 4 Days

10K came yesterday alone

(Newser) - Here's some perspective on the 2,000 Syrian refugees the US has agreed to take in : since Thursday, 20,000 Syrian refugees have fled across the border into Iraqi Kurdistan—10,000 of them yesterday alone. The UNHCR doesn't know why the sudden exodus has occurred this weekend... More »

Newest Arab Idol Is Palestinian Refugee

Politics takes center stage on a very different version of 'Idol'

(Newser) - For all the tears shed by American Idol contestants over their emotional "journeys" and "struggles," America's wannabes have nothing on the winner of this year's Arab Idol: 22-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Assaf, who grew up in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He had to... More »

Apparent Execution in Paris as 3 Kurd Activists Shot

One victim is top militant Sakine Cansiz

(Newser) - Three Kurdish women were found dead at a Paris pro-Kurdish center early today, and France's interior minister is calling it an execution. The three activists were shot; local media reported they were shot in the head, but police would not confirm that, the AP reports. One of the victims... More »

Is This the Moment for a Greater Kurdistan?

Unrest in Syria strengthening Kurds position around region

(Newser) - With Syria mired in civil war, Iraq still unstable, and Iran and Turkey watching warily, could this be the last, best chance for a "Greater Kurdistan?" asks Pepe Escobar at al-Jazeera . The two major Kurdish parties in Syria have already come together to run the country's northeast, in... More »

Iran OKs Visit by Moms of Detained US Hikers

But Tehran has made promises in the past

(Newser) - Iran will allow the mothers of the three American hikers who have been in custody for nearly a year to visit their children. Tehran has ordered its UN mission to issue visas for the three moms, the AP reports, but no date has been has been set. Iran has told... More »

US Hikers Held in Iran Took Big Risks

Crossing the border accidentally is hard, but possible

(Newser) - How hard is it to accidentally cross the border from Kurdish Iraq into Iran, as Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal, and Shane Bauer did last year? Outside magazine dispatched Joshua Hammer to retrace their steps and find out. His conclusion? The three demonstrated a “shocking lack of preparation,” but... More »

USC Prof Fights Terror Charge for Backing Kurds

Supreme Court case puts law to test

(Newser) - A USC professor and human rights activist heads to the Supreme Court next week to fight terror charges for supporting Turkey's Kurdish minority. Ralph Fertig, 79, is a self-described pacifist who says he counseled local leaders on how to peacefully pursue their cause. Those leaders, however, may have been members... More »

American Adviser to Kurds Outed as Oil Shareholder

Galbraith's policy push won him $100M

(Newser) - An influential American advocate for Iraqi Kurds, who helped successfully secure Kurdish control over new oil finds in northern Iraq in the country's constitution, stands to reap more than $100 million from the policy he shaped. Peter Galbraith, it turns out, received rights to an enormous oil stake in Kurdistan... More »

Kurds Threaten to Block Iraqi Election

Dispute over Kirkuk holds up passage of new election law

(Newser) - A dispute over the oil-rich province of Kirkuk is threatening to delay the Iraqi elections scheduled for January and push Arab-Kurd tensions past the breaking point. Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament have vowed to block a vote on a new election law unless authorities agree to use voter records... More »

Iran Allows Swiss Envoys Visit With Detained Hikers

Policy reversal may be gesture of goodwill ahead of nuclear talks

(Newser) - Iran has changed its policy on three detained US hikers, allowing Swiss diplomats—who represent American interests in Iran—to visit them. Officials have been denied access to the three Americans since they were detained in July after crossing the border from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran. Tehran’s reversal may... More »

Iranian TV: Captured US Hikers Are CIA Spies

(Newser) - The three American hikers nabbed by Iranian authorities after allegedly crossing the border from Iraq were actually spies, an Iranian TV report claims. The Tehran-based station quotes an Iraqi policeman as saying the three were “working with the CIA.” Hillary Clinton meanwhile asked the Iranian government today for... More »

Family Confirms US Hiker's Arrest in Iran

(Newser) - The mother of one of the three Americans detained while hiking near the Iran-Iraq border confirmed that her son has been arrested by Iranian security forces, reports CNN. Joshua Fattal of Pennsylvania and two friends, who were warned by Iraqi police not to hike in the border region, were seized... More »

Iran Seizes 3 US Tourists

(Newser) - Iran has arrested three American tourists who were hiking near the border in Iraq's Kurdistan region, the BBC reports. Kurdish officials believe the hikers were seized after accidentally straying into Iranian territory. State Department officials say they are investigating and taking the matter very seriously. "It looks like the... More »

Kurd-Arab Conflict Now Biggest Threat to Iraq

(Newser) - Tension between Arabs and Kurds, rather than the usual friction between Sunnis and Shia, has become the greatest threat to Iraqi security, says the top US general in the country. The oil-rich Kurdish region has become "the No. 1 driver of instability," Ray Odierno told reporters yesterday, and... More »

Ex-Pentagon Official Eying Iraq Oil Deal

Noted war booster Perle denies deal, Kazakh connection

(Newser) - Former Pentagon official Richard Perle is on board with a consortium seeking to drill for oil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, the Wall Street Journal reports—though both Baghdad and Washington want a national oil law passed before regional business is done. The Iraq war backer denies that he’s... More »

Would-Be Oil Barons Venture Into Kurdistan

Northern Iraqi region awash in untapped black gold—and risk

(Newser) - Kurdistan, Iraq’s mostly autonomous northern region, is brimming with oil, but the big oil companies won’t touch it. The Kurdish government gladly hands out exploration contracts, but taking one invites the wrath of the central government in Baghdad. That’s left the forbidden fruit to “wildcatters,”... More »

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