Iraqi Parliament Bans Display of Israeli Flag, ‘Zionist’ Symbols, Following Conquest of Kurdish Territories
Iraq’s parliament voted on Tuesday to “criminalize” the display of what it called “Zionist symbols,” including the Israeli flag, across Iraq.
In a condemnatory reference to the display of the Kurdish and Israeli flags alongside each other at pro-independence rallies in Kurdistan prior to a September 25 referendum, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament claimed that Iraq’s constitution had been violated.
“A dangerous phenomenon, representing the hoisting of the Zionist entity flag during public rallies in front of the media, has recently appeared that breaks the basic constitutional principles of Iraq,” Salim al-Jabouri said. “This is an exercise that damages the reputation of Iraq and its nation and the law punishes it by the maximum penalties.”
The Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reported that the resolution had been introduced in the parliament by the powerful Iranian-backed Shia Supreme Islamic Council.
Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish leaders alike have portrayed the Kurdish bid for independence — endorsed by 92 percent of voters in the referendum — as the potential creation of a “second Israel” in the region, accusing the Jewish state of masterminding Kurdish separatism in the process. Israel was the only country to explicitly support the referendum, with the US and the European Union advising Kurdish leaders against holding it — one key reason why the Israeli flag was prominently on display at pro-independence rallies.
The ban follows two weeks of intensive military action in Kurdistan, which saw Iraqi government forces and the Shia Hash al-Shaabi paramilitary organization — frequently using US-supplied weapons and vehicles — seize more than 50 percent of the territories in northern Iraq recently liberated from ISIS by the Kurdish Peshmerga.
The Iraqi government said on Wednesday that it would not attack Peshmerga fighters unless they attacked first, despite accusing Kurdish military commanders of backtracking on a draft agreement on the posting of Iraqi government troops on Kurdistan’s international borders.
A government statement declared that if the Peshmerga “confronted the federal forces by firing rockets, mortars and shooting against the federal forces and killing federal forces, we will pursue them with the power of federal law and they will not have safety.”
The Kurds are insisting that the Iraqi government respect a US-brokered agreement that stipulates the Peshmerga keep all the areas it controlled before the offensive against ISIS in the northern city of Mosul in October 2016. Iraq wants the Kurds pull back behind the so-called “Green Line” that was in place between the Kurdish north and Saddam Hussein’s regime prior to the US invasion in 2003.