Hundreds of Kurds had to flee their homes in the mountain village of Razqa, Iraq, when artillery shells came whistling down from Iran early this month, blowing apart their homes and livestock.
In Turkey, meanwhile, armored personnel carriers and tanks rumble along its remote border with Iraq's Kurdish zone. Turkey has sent tens of thousands of fresh soldiers in the last few weeks to beef up an already formidable force there.
The Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq are the country's most stable and prosperous area. But to neighboring Iran and Turkey, both with large Kurdish minorities, they are something else: an inspiration and a support base for the Kurdish militants in their own countries.
So Iran and Turkey are sending troops, tanks and artillery to the frontier to seal off the borders and send a message: If the US-backed Iraqi government doesn't clamp down on Kurdish guerrillas who use Iraq as a base, they could do it themselves.
That has left the US in a quandary. If US forces take action, they risk alienating Iraqi Kurds, the most pro-US group in the region. And if they don't, they risk increased tensions -- and possibly worse -- with two powerful rivals.
Just listen to Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
"We would not hesitate to take every kind of measures when our security is at stake," Gul said when asked whether Turkish troops might cross into Iraq. "The United States best understands Turkey's position. Everybody knows what they can do when they feel their security is threatened."
Iran's artillery barrages could be warning shots, a crackdown on Kurdish guerrillas now is a factor in the wrangling with the US over Tehran's nuclear program.
Kurds, who make up 14 percent of Iran's population, have long complained of discrimination in Iran. Iraq's Kurds backed the US invasion of their country. Would the Kurds of Iran take the US side if tensions escalated there?
"The Iranians are clearly very concerned over the mobilization of their own Kurdish minority," said Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at Queen Mary College, University of London.
And Tehran may also be flexing its muscles to remind Washington that it shares a long border with Iraq, and could cause serious problems there for the US.
The Iranians' policy is to warn that "we have the potential to run you out of Iraq if you don't give us some slack over the nuclear issue," Dodge said.
The traditional Kurdish region spans Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria and the guerrillas are based in a mountain range of northern Iraq that stretches into Turkey and Syria. They seem determined to keep up their decades-long struggle.
Kurdish guerrillas of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, or PEJAK, have called on Kurds in western Iran to begin a campaign of civil disobedience. In clashes with Iranian security forces last year, dozens of PEJAK fighters and about a dozen Iranian soldiers were killed, according to official Iranian reports.
This year, more than a dozen members of Turkish security forces in southern Turkey have been killed fighting Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which is closely allied with PEJAK.
After Iran shelled a village used by Kurdish guerrillas, the PKK warned that it was "capable of responding to these attacks with more strength then ever."
The COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study released on Saturday found, although its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed. The study in Israel compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated people with the disease. It matched age and gender, among other characteristics. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1 percent of all the COVID-19
RARE ADMISSION: A top Chinese expert was the first to publicly address the efficacy of the nation’s vaccines as it aims to inoculate 40 percent of its population by June China is considering mixing different COVID-19 vaccines to improve the relatively low efficacy of its existing options, a top health expert told a conference in Chengdu on Saturday. Authorities have to “consider ways to solve the issue that efficacy rates of existing vaccines are not high,” Chinese media outlet The Paper reported, citing Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Gao Fu (高福). His comments mark the first time a top Chinese expert has publicly alluded to the relatively low efficacy of the country’s vaccines, as China forges ahead in its mass vaccination campaign and exports its jabs around the world. China
The Australian government yesterday said that it had decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine and identified a second case of a rare blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot. The Australian government had been in talks with the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant, which had asked the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration for provisional registration. However, Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt ruled out a J&J contract, because its vaccine was similar to the AstraZeneca product, which Australia had already contracted for 53.8 million doses. Hunt said the government was following the advice of Australia’s scientific and technical advisory
The Indonesian government has said it is satisfied with the effectiveness of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine it has been using, after China’s top disease control official said that current vaccines offer low protection against the novel coronavirus. Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s COVID-19 vaccine program, on Monday said the WHO had found that the Chinese vaccines had met requirements by being more than 50 percent effective. Clinical trials in Indonesia for the vaccine from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac showed that it was 65 percent effective, she said. “It means ... the ability to form antibodies in our bodies is still very