At the fore­front of the war on Is­lamic State, yet Arab sus­pi­cions of Kurds high­light failed state

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

Months of fierce fight­ing and sev­eral hun­dred coali­tion air-strikes later, the Is­lamic State (IS) finds it­self largely on the de­fen­sive, but as a spate of at­tacks across Iraq clearly showed in re­cent days, IS is an adap­tive and determined or­ga­ni­za­tion that is far from a fin­ished force.

As re­cent Pesh­merga ad­vances around Mo­sul threat­ened to choke vi­tal IS sup­ply routes, IS mil­i­tants launched a se­ries of at­tacks on Kur­dish po­si­tions to the south of Kirkuk. The aim of the move was to sow new fear amongst the peo­ple and show it can still strike at the heart of Kur­dis­tan but also to di­vert Kur­dish forces from the real IS prize – Mo­sul.

US-led coali­tion airstrikes have no doubt been in in­stru­men­tal in keep­ing IS mil­i­tants on the back foot, but the pro­tracted and deadly bat­tles have shown the lim­i­ta­tions of air­power with­out an ef­fec­tive ground force.

Kur­dis­tan Prime Min­is­ter Nechir­van Barzani high­lighted this very point, “The ques­tion is: is the pol­icy one of con­tain­ment, or to dis­lodge and de­stroy them?” adding, “In or­der to to­tally erad­i­cate them, fur­ther ac­tion must be taken.”

Barzani re­jected any no­tion of the Kurds spear­head­ing an attack to wrest con­trol of Mo­sul, to avoid any eth­nic battle be­tween Kurds and Arabs.

Such fears speak vol­umes about the frac­tured na­ture of the Iraqi land­scape. Whilst Kur­dish ad­vances have proved piv­otal against IS in re­cent months in­clud­ing pro­tect­ing ar­eas where the Iraqi army orig­i­nally fled, some noises in Bagh­dad and in seg­ments of the Sunni pop­u­la­tion have viewed Kur­dish ad­vances against IS and their de­fense of dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries with sus­pi­cion.

The Pesh­merga have lost over 700 men since the start of the con­flict with thou­sands more wounded. They have af­forded pro­tec­tion to Arab ar­eas not to men­tion host­ing thou­sands of refugees. Fur­ther­more, Kurds filled a se­cu­rity vac­uum and didn’t oust Iraqi forces from Kirkuk and the like. What would have hap­pened to such cities if IS had a free ticket to roam in or in­deed if Kur­dish forces were not pro­tect­ing the city in re­cent days when IS launched at­tacks on Kirkuk?

As Barzani ex­plained, “there is no loy­alty to a coun­try called Iraq. It re- ally is im­por­tant to find a for­mula for how to live to­gether within the bound­aries of what is called Iraq. Un­less a for­mula is found, there will be more blood­shed and the coun­try will re­main a desta­bi­liz­ing fac­tor in the re­gion.”

And here is the prob­lem, whilst Pesh­merga have ad­vanced against IS in the north, it is Shi­ite mili­tias and not re­ally an Iraqi army that have thwarted IS from the doors of Bagh­dad in An­bar and Diyala prov­inces.

A num­ber of Sunni tribes are fight­ing IS but by large the dis­en­fran­chised Sun­nis have not been en­ticed to fight IS forces. On the con­trary, prior to the IS ad­vance, Sunni dom­i­nated ar­eas of Iraq where gripped with protests and vi­o­lent skir­mishes with se­cu­rity forces and some in­flu­en­tial tribes wel­comed IS with open arms.

Barzani played down any im­mi­nent joined attack on Mo­sul set­ting the fall of this year as a more re­al­is­tic tar­get. For any chance of IS to be erad­i­cated, Iraq needs some sem­blance of an ef­fec­tive na­tional force in­clud­ing the all-im­por­tant Sunni com­po­nents in Mo­sul.

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