What does IS want from Kurdistan and Iraq?

By Arian Mufid:

Peshmerga forces, south Kurdistan

Peshmerga forces, south Kurdistan

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (IS) built up its strength, critically it sought to accommodate the Sunnis of Iraq. It found an increasingly receptive audience because the Sunnis were being repressed to the point where many of their leaders were being jailed or expelled from Iraq, as happened to Tariq Hashimi, the former Iraqi vice-president. Nuri Maliki, the former Shia-sectarian prime minster, drove moderate Sunnis into the arms of the extremists. For this reason, Tariq Hashimi described the day IS took Mosul, with the help of Sunni Arab tribes, as a ‘toiler revolution’. What he meant was that the IS success was made possible by a kind of uprising of oppressed Sunnis.

IS has exploited the sectarianism, chronic disunity and lack of effective governance in Iraq, alongside the many opportunities provided to it by the civil war in Syria. It is another brand of al Qaeda. Its leaders, such as Abubakir Baghdadi, have been most influenced by Al Qaeda leaders, notably Ayman Zawahiri and Ausama Bin Laden. Over time, IS terrorist activities in Iraq intensified in cities such as Kirkuk, Mosul and Fallujah. The recent explosive expansion of IS presents Kurds, in both West (Syria) and South (Iraq) Kurdistan with one of their greatest challenges ever.

While IS has carried out terrorist atrocities against civilians in the cities and towns it controls and targets, it has been more accommodating in the tribal areas of tribes whose leaders once backed Saddam’s genocidal acts, such as the Anfal campaign and Halabja chemical attack, against Kurds. IS has also recruited former officers and soldiers from the old Iraq army. For Kurds, IS represents a terrible fusion of Baathism and barbarism. In September 2013, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader told a political rally that, “We should take IS more seriously and we should preserve the unity of all political parties because still there is a serious danger to our KRG”. Many observers did not take his comments seriously until recently.

IS has faced less resistance in the lawless areas of Syria such as Aleppo and Raqqa. Various sources have indicated that Saudi Arabia started financing IS with the aim of overthrowing the Assad government and ending Iranian-backed Shia dominance in Syria. However, the Kurds in the west have long been engaged in fierce fighting against the jihadist gangs. The forces of the YPG/YPJ have prevented IS from controlling any part of west Kurdistan.

At the beginning of this month, when the IS attacked Sinjar and the surrounding area, and thousands of innocent Yazidi Kurds were killed or fled to Sinjar mountain, the whole world began at last to take the threat of IS seriously, particularly because they planned next to attack Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and they were targeting a region famously rich in oil and natural resources. The western powers have come to realise the cost of their failure to intervene in Syria and they don’t want to make the same mistake again. The Obama administration’s air strikes halted the IS advance and KRG forces have since recaptured most of the ‘disputed’ areas which had been seized by IS. The whole world has been alarmed by the slaughter of innocent Yazidi Kurds, Christians and other groups. Western governments have urgently dispatched their foreign ministers to Erbil to take lists of what the KRG needs to fight this international terrorism.

What does IS want from the south and west Kurdistan? First, IS is not fundamentally grounded in ideology – it comprises mercenaries and uneducated, brainwashed people from local Arab tribes. The foreigners are coming from everywhere under the pretext of jihad against infidels, but they are after the revenue of oil and they want to steal the goods and destroy the homes of ordinary people. However, in targeting west and south Kurdistan – and in seeking to extend their ‘Caliphate’to these areas – IS have not done their homework on Kurdish history and Kurds’ long, proud record of military resistance.

Second, IS wants to destroy the model of the KRG because it has proved to be the biggest barrier to their Sunni Arab expansionist plans when the Kurds moved to regain ‘disputed’ areas which they have been claiming for a hundred years.

The global threats posed by IS are real and the world should come to the aid of the KRG. The West has done a moderately good job this month, but IS will not be defeated by air strikes in Iraq only. The West also needs to provide support to the Syrian Kurds and to target the IS bases and training camps in Syria with devastating force. With the news that the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have planned strikes against Islamic militias in Libya, it’s also high time for the Saudi, Qatari and Turkish governments to definitively stop backing terrorism in Iraq and Syria and give unequivocal and practical support to the KRG.


2 Responses to What does IS want from Kurdistan and Iraq?
  1. Shalaw
    August 28, 2014 | 19:45

    IS is a serious threat but more serious is your independence. Don’t let IS distract your attention form the vital issue of your independence. Terrorism will take a long time to root out.

  2. Rezqar
    August 28, 2014 | 20:57

    A group of Peshmargas have written to Kurdistan Regional Government President Barzani to expedite the process of declaration of independence.


Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL https://kurdistantribune.com/what-does-is-want-from-kurdistan-iraq/trackback/