Why ISIS Fears the Kurds

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - J. Watt

Scrolling through a photo gallery on the Mid­dle East, I couldn’t help but pause as I looked at a pic­ture of a fe­male YPG sniper unit perched on a rooftop in Tel Abyad. As I looked at this pic­ture, the thought came to mind that it rep­re­sents ISIS’s great­est fear and night­mare. Af­ter some re­flec­tion, I re­al­ized four rea­sons of why ISIS may fear the Kurds:

ISIS fears the Kurds as an en­emy that has mo­ti­va­tion to fight. Par­tic­u­larly in Iraq, more so than Syria, ISIS has faced un­will­ing and in­com­pe­tent foes on the bat­tle­field. The Iraqi army fled Iraq’s sec­ond largest city be­cause they didn’t have the in­cen­tive to stay, risk their lives, and fight. Even now as the Iraqi gov­ern­ment seeks to re­take the land ac­quired in ISIS’s Au­gust 2014 land grab, their sol­diers prove their mo­ti­va­tion is lim­ited to fight for lands that are not his­tor­i­cally Shia. Yet, on the con­trary, Iraq’s Kurds view this as the fight of their life—not only to de­fend their his­toric lands but to per­haps at­tain the Kur­dish dream of in­de­pen­dence through it. The Kurds, un­like other fac­tions in Iraq, have proven their stal­wart­ness to fight, and lay down their lives, to de­feat ISIS.

Sec­ond, ISIS fears the Kurds be­cause they are the only force they’ve al­most ex­clu­sively lost to. Only one word is nec­es­sary to make this point: Kobani. Many more could be added, par­tic­u­larly af­ter this week’s lib­er­a­tion of Tel Abyad, but the em­bar­rass­ment of well-equipped ISIS get­ting out­lasted and de­feated by a small, un­armed band of Kurds (many of whom were women!) has to keep im­age­fo­cused ISIS awake at night. Not only that but Kobani will al­ways be a re­minder of Kurds of mul­ti­ple coun­tries (and even the greater in­ter­na­tional coali­tion) unit­ing against ISIS to force them out with their tail be­tween their legs.

ISIS also fears the Kurds be­cause they are an on-the­ground Sunni Mus­lim ma­jor­ity pop­u­la­tion who ab­so­lutely hate them. ISIS has long taken ad­van­tage of Shia marginal­iza­tion of Sunni pop­u­la­tions to gain some lo­cal sup­port in the ar­eas they gov­ern. The Kurds, how­ever, rep­re­sent a com­mu­nity of Sunni Mus­lims who won’t be won over to rad­i­cal ide­ol­ogy and, though they are both Sunni, are against ISIS and what they rep­re­sent. Not only that, but ISIS’s pro­poganda ma­chine, which of­ten re­cruits on the premise of po­ten­tial re­cruits get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to pro­tect fel­low Sun­nis, falls apart when they re­al­ize they are point­ing their guns at fel­low Sun­nis.

Fi­nally, ISIS fears the Kurds be­cause the Kurds are seen more fa­vor­ably than ever by the West and with their al­lies. While most of ISIS’s en­e­mies (Shia mili­tias, al Nusra front, Syr­ian gov­ern­ment) are seen in a poor light by the greater world, the Kurds have dozens of al­lies on the ground pro­vid­ing train­ing and con­sul­ta­tion. ISIS is no doubt savvy in their media war, but time will prove the Kurds have won the day as their ro­ladex of al­lies has pro­vided them nearly con­stant air cover and world­class train­ing.

In this fight against evil ex­trem­ism, don’t for­get that ISIS is not with­out fears of their own.

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