Who will defend the KRG in the south of Kurdistan?

By Mufid Abdulla:

Pro-Kurd YPG have set a shining example

YPG forces have set a shining example

When the war broke out in June, and the ‘Islamic State’ group (IS) captured Mosul and advanced across swathes of Iraq, Masud Barzani the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the president of Kurdistan was abroad. He didn’t bother to abort his trip. The ruling KDP wasn’t too disturbed by the news, especially since the vacuum left by retreating Iraqi forces in the disputed areas was quickly filled by Kurdish peshmarga forces. The KDP declared that Article 140 was at last being implemented, meaning that we had taken back Kirkuk and other disputed places. After this, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) policy became defensive in relation to the IS. This has proved to be a flawed strategy, laid down by the president of Kurdistan on the pretext that we didn’t want to take sides in a Shia versus Sunni conflict and that this was not our war.

Since June the length of the KRG’s borders with the IS have increased day by day, almost without anyone taking notice. In mid-June IS tried to capture Baghdad, but the intervention of the Iranian Quds Army and American forces aborted this plan. In the following weeks the president of Kurdistan failed to grasp the reality that the IS are determined to expand their territory and state. He was waiting for the latest tragedy to happen, either deliberately or through political naivety. Otherwise, how could it be possible to have a neighbour that creates a slaughterhouse for human beings and not ask yourself when he will be coming for you?

On 2nd August, when IS forces attacked the Kurdish town of Sinjar, inhabited by Yazidi Kurds, KDP forces there withdrew without any fight. This has been confirmed by US intelligence services. The IS are the darkest of Islamic fundamentalist forces, seeking to set up a Caliphate state and throw us back into barbarism. As a result of the IS attack, tens of thousands of Yazidi Kurds fled to Sinjar mountain to protect themselves from these forces of darkness and around 1000 defenceless people have been massacred inside Sinjar. There are reports that 500 women have been captured by the IS which plans to sell them as slaves.

Barzani and his security apparatus failed to realise that the forces of the IS have the same genocidal roots as the people who committed Anfal in the late ‘80s, when 182,000 Kurdish villagers, many of them women and children, were murdered. US officials have reported that Sinjar was poorly defended and the peshmarga withdrew without a fight. Yazidi Kurds will never forgive KDP leaders for this historical blunder and they will take years to recover from their terrible wounds.

This catastrophe could have been predicted. The current KRG and ruling party leaders have not adequately trained and resourced the pershmerga forces and they have ignored some basic requirements – for example, there was no military base in Maxmur town. The leader of a Christian party in Kurdistan, Younadan Kanna, shockingly told the ‘Sunday Times’ that “people are fleeing because they have no trust that the peshmerga can protect them. IS wants to die to have lunch with the prophet Mohammed but the peshmarga want to live to have dinner with their wives and children”. The current situation has tragically proven that only a few peshmarga units are truly fit for purpose, and the blame for this lies with the KRG’s systemic corruption and not with our rank and file soldiers.

Rudaw TV, the pro-government station, yesterday broadcast that forces led by Sirwan Barzani had liberated Maxmur and Gwer and that peshmarga forces are in control of those areas. There are two points to consider here. First, the name of Sirwan Barzani is one of the most notorious for corruption in Erbil and the whole of Kurdistan and the KDP leadership should have put someone more reputable than him at the front – ordinary people surely don’t believe that this multimillionaire man will sacrifice himself for this country. Second, the recapture of the two towns was the result of the withdrawal of the IS forces after a US air attack: there wasn’t any strategic point to this operation.

I don’t want to underestimate our forces but we should realise that the real battle has not yet been carried out by them. KT sources told us that last Thursday the PKK received a message at their Qandil headquarters stating that the Turkish MIT (intelligence) had told KDP forces to leave Maxmur to PKK forces so that they would be crushed by the IS. As soon as the PKK learned of this plot, they tactically left Maxmur and put it on their website that Maxmur was empty of forces.

People then started fleeing Erbil, fearful that the IS, only 40 km away, could reach them. The majority of people do not have a clear picture of what the president of Kurdistan doing and why. As I write this, there are reports that embattled Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) forces have lost control of Jalula to the IS, following daily attacks over the past month. The IS are waging a guerrilla-style campaign and surely the pershmarga has plenty of experience of this type of warfare. The KRG condemned the Iraqi army for surrendering Mosul to IS in a few hours, but the KDP forces did worse in Sinjar. Analysts believe that the ‘Kurdish Leningrad’ Sinjar will need to be liberated by PKK and PYD/YPG fighters from north and west Kurdistan.

Many of us who have been involved in the Kurdish struggle for decades can close our eyes at any point and hundreds of images will flash though our minds, a visual diary of our experiences. But this time I can hardly believe, after all that has happened to our people – the images moving across the mind like a slideshow – that now there are these new images of people dying of starvation, thirst and heat on the Sinjar. I thought we’d had enough tragedies and massacres in our history but didn’t count on a force such as IS carrying out a new slaughter of our women and children.

The recent tragedy makes some things very clear:

  1. We lack professional and academic people in our forces. We do not have a national army. The people occupying the key strategic posts don’t have sufficient knowledge of today’s standards for a national army. KDP forces need to learn lessons from the Sinjar tragedy and punish the army officers responsible for this rout which has cost so many lives and damaged the reputation of the Kurdish nation. Furthermore, this tragedy must help redefine the rights and responsibilities of the peshmerga – as organised, united forces of the nation, not political party militias.
  2. The forces from the north and the west of Kurdistan have proven to the whole people of the south of Kurdistan that they are effective forces and they are reliable and they are the best organised. Crucially, their morale is high and their main ammunition is their zeal of Kurdish nationalism. We have the shining example of the YPG in the west of Kurdistan: the IS could not occupy an inch of their land over the last several months.
  3. These development have shown to the whole world that the Kurdish nation is united and has come together to provide mutual support in these difficult times. This is a most powerful message to the enemies of the Kurds and Kurdistan to think twice before attacking any part of Kurdistan. The Protection of Kurdistan is the responsibility of the Kurds themselves, nobody else.
  • This article was re-published in German by Taz.de


10 Responses to Who will defend the KRG in the south of Kurdistan?
  1. Hiwa
    August 11, 2014 | 13:45

    I have to say this is one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. You tell the truth as it is on the ground and give a taste of reality to us. When I read the first sentence of your first bullet point “We lack professional and academic people in our forces.” I couldn’t agree more. Our president is someone who hasn’t completed 10th grade, and the peshmerga minister up until a month ago was someone who didn’t finish 4th grade. Now you give an idiot like Sheikh Jaafer a little money, and what do u have? A total disaster, and that’s what we’re seeing. PUK and KDP Pesh get salaries, PKK & YPG don’t get anything but freedom (no money). PUK and KDP are the ones who run from the fight (KDP much more). YPG and PKK run to the fight.

  2. Rauf Naqishbendi
    August 11, 2014 | 16:58

    … Our high ranking Kurdish officials are Billionaires while poor peshmargas and the majority of our people are impoverished.
    These thugs Barzani and Talibani are now complaining that peshmargas don’t have matching weapon to ISIS. Well, they had enough money in the past, and, instead buying weapon and arming peshmarga, they pocketed Kurdistan revenue into their own coffer.
    One need not to worry about Barzani and Talabani, once they are threatened they will flee to Europe or other countries as they have done in the past. And they will be welcomed for they are one of the richest people in the world.
    These leaders they have no feeling for their people, when was the last time Barzani or Talabani has been visiting distressed communities or any Kurdish familie? When Halabja was chemical bombed did Barzani or Talabani visited the survivors of Halabja in Iranian camp? These leaders all they care about is themselves, and they need Kurds only to provide them with power and money. They are thugs.
    Sure we need to be united to fight ISIS but in a meantime atrocities Talabani and Barzani committed against Kurds are unforgettable and unforgivable.

  3. Michael Fuchs
    August 11, 2014 | 17:10

    there are reasonable non-Kurds supporting the Kurds fight. Some people Kurds and non-Kurds want to divide Kurds in good Kurds (KDP) and bad Kurds (PKK). But we dont buy it. Everyone with some knowledge knows that PKK are not angels, but neither is KDP! given the history of Kurdish civil war and human rights records in KRG its obvious that depicting PYD as archenemy was a big failure! everyone with basic knowledge of the last days, knows that YPG and PKK fought very hard and brave to liberate Kurds under threat of massmurder. This has to be acknowledged. Masrour Barzani has to step down, there is absolute no problem with that, it’s common in democracies. There are dozens of fronts to defend the Kurds cause, he may play a vital role in other areas. It took just a few weeks to bring KRG to the brink of disaster and Kurds are already victim of another genocide! a few weeks to open gates of hell. people have to press Kurdish leadership hard, so that they abandon political chess, there’s still time, there’s still hope. Kurdistan is under threat before it’s even born. people of rojava knew why the prefer PYD for ENKS, YPG/APJ are brave fighters, there must be dialogue, people shall not wait for their party leadership to start, they will have to start it on their own.

  4. Hemn
    August 12, 2014 | 02:06

    Dear Mr Abdulla,

    Your article entirely consists of inaccuracies and baseless accusations first Pre Barzani was right not to get involved with ISIS as they were aiming at Baghdad. No leader with common-sense starts a war if he/she doesn’t have to. Second, The KRG has tried to purchase arms but US arms embargo on the behest of Maliki block these efforts. Third the Peshmerga fought ISIS in Sinjar. ISIS had Humvees and M1 tanks. AGP does nothing to a M1 tank and AK47 is useless against Humvees. Fourth, the Washington Post stated that, the Peshmerga fought in Sinjar till they run-out of ammunition. Fifth, when Representatives from Kurdistan visited the United States in June 2014. They met with members of congress, State department official and Joe Biden. In all these meeting the requested permission to purchase arms but those requests went unanswered. Masrour Barzani; Stated to world press that Kurdistan need arms to fight ISIS it didn’t change US opposition. Sixth, to date Kurdistan gets piece meal weapons and ammunition. On the 11/08/2014 Masrour Barzani stated to CNN Wolf Blitzer, if the United States have listened to us and provided us with weapons we could have avoided Sinjar. In conclusion I do believe your article is entirely base on incorrect and unsubstantiated accusations.

    • Havel
      August 12, 2014 | 10:07

      Dear Mr Hemn,
      But how then have the YPG been so effective?
      “The moral is to the physical as three to one”
      While KDP leaders defend their palaces and hidden billions, the YPG defend their people.
      See this: ‘What the peshmerga really needs’: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/what-iraqs-kurdish-peshmerga-really-need
      “In a bid to explain the peshmerga setbacks in these battles, Kurdish media have focused on the need for more and newer weapons. Another key theme has been ammunition shortages — a traditional face-saver for Middle Eastern armies …”

  5. Bahlool | Kurdisk kritik mot Barzani
    August 12, 2014 | 08:24

    […] Irak, då hade shiiterna börjat mobilisera sina män, och voila, ISIS vände sig emot Barzani. Enligt denna artikel, skriven av en kurdisk reporter, så visar det att Barzani är lika korrupt som alla andra korrupta […]

  6. Baqi
    August 13, 2014 | 00:27

    Why has the Ministry of Peshmargas repeatedly overlooked public cry for immediate merge of all Peshmarga Forces during all these years?

    Once again, we urge them to merge, merge, merge all Police, intelligence and Peshmarga Forces for the sake of nation. Some international media outlets have criticized Peshmargas for thier lack of combat experiance and coordination.

    How can we demand independence when we have failed to establish a national armed force?

  7. rêzan
    August 20, 2014 | 00:32

    thank you verry much for this brilliant article hopefully the kurdish people will read, discuss and learn from opinions like like this and will select they leaders more carefully in the future – gelik sipas Mufid Abdulla, te fikrên minî ez çend sala dibejim derdora xwe anî ser ziman. ez xwendina wê nivîsandinê ji hemu kurdan GELIKÎ pend dikim !!!! ne ji bona rexnekirina rexikî an şûçdarkirina partîyekê, şexsîyetike. Belkî hertiştê hatîya nivîsandin tam ne rast jî bê, lê fikrên gelikî balkêş û fikrên go divabê li ser bên ramandin … rexnekirinê me divabe çêker bin û bi dilê biratî, dilxwazîya yekîtîya me û welatparêzî bin

  8. unproductive
    August 20, 2014 | 07:42

    You seems to forget that KRG can’t buy weapons on its own. No one sells them weapons because of Baghdad. Didn’t you see how long it took for Western countries to do anything against the misery?
    You are too strongly generalizing. And you forget that KRG is the safest place in whole Iraq? And you don’t mention that the Peshmerga had to thin their lines because of the extension of KRG to the whole Kurdish territory? 40% more land to defend with the same amount of soldiers! Also, which money? KRG has no money, it is not allowed to sell its oil. There isn’t even enough for the slightest things. So don’t tell fairy tales if you don’t know much about KRG. I’m a Kurd from Bakur, but this respectless view is wrong! You don’t care, you just want to spread hate.

  9. […] Iraklı Kürt uzmanlara göre bunun sebebi örgütün gelişmiş askeri yeteneklerinin ve uzun yıllara dayanan gerilla savaşı deneyiminin IŞİD’in ilerleyişini durdurabileceğine olan inanç. Buna karşın peşmergenin genel olarak yeterli eğitim ve etkili askeri bilgi ve beceriden yoksun olduğu hatırlatılıyor. […]

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