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Why Islamic State Targets Kurdistan Region
   
 
 
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Why Islamic State Targets Kurdistan Region

 
Friday, 22 August 2014 06:30
 
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by Idrees Mohammed*
EPOS Insights

 

The Islamic State (IS) concentrated on three areas of geopolitical significance in August. The northeastern area of Iraq, including Shingal, can serve as an IS corridor between Iraq and Syria; Erbil is the Kurdish political capital and home to foreign diplomatic missions and companies; the areas of geographic proximity to Iran constitute an IS direct threat to Iran. Only the selection of these areas threatens the security of the whole region.

Two major concerns emerged and an immediate response was urgent. The attacks on Yizdies resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe. Thousands took refuge in Shingal Mountain without food and water and trapped there starving to death. The IS movement towards Erbil threatened the security of Kurdistan Region, the best hope for peace in the Middle East. People were panicked and large numbers rushed into Erbil airport to leave the region. The humanitarian catastrophe in Shingal and the threat of Erbil's fall to IS rang alarm bells worldwide.

Kurdistan suddenly found itself in a difficult position. It had to protect top Kurdish interests, including the security of the region, and tackle a humanitarian crisis. However, the Kurds complained they neither had the necessary weaponry to fight the well-equipped IS fighters nor the capacity to deal with millions of the displaced in the region. Baghdad had refused to provide weapons to Kurdish peshmarga and also cut Kurdish share of budget for months. For years, the survival of Kurdistan has not been so threatened.

The survival of Kurdistan Region is of vital importance to domestic, regional and international arena. The Kurds have been a main factor in balancing the sectarian structure and political power in Iraq. The disturbance of this domestic balance would have unintended consequences in the Middle East. The sectarian politics in Baghdad had simply disturbed this balance. The consequences had been devastating especially in the last two years. Recent regional and international attempts with regard to the political process in Baghdad were aimed at maintaining this balance.

It was here regional and international powers stepped in. The United States scrambled to push Iraqis into forming an inclusive government in Baghdad by undertaking sporadic targeted bombardments of IS locations as well as tackling the humanitarian catastrophe. European heavyweight powers also pledged military and humanitarian aids. The crisis in Iraq reflected coordination between unlikely allies of the United States and Iran. The Gulf Countries appear to be onboard too. It is a promising push for a true power-sharing process in Baghdad but one which would be short-lived.

The situation is rather complicated. It does not look to be a short-term bottleneck. There is a need for a long-term strategy to deal with the situation. Kurdistan Region is ready to fight the IS in Iraq. However, two major points should be met. First, the Kurds have loudly complaint about the lack of necessary weaponry and pleaded for it. If Kurdish peshmarga are at the forefront of a strategy to fight the IS in Iraq, they need training, intelligence cooperation as well as weaponry. This can be met with the help of Baghdad, the neighboring countries, US and European powers. Second, two million displaced persons are reported to be in Kurdistan Region. The Kurds have not dealt with such a number of the displaced and do not have the expertise and capabilities to deal with them. The humanitarian aids and expertise are highly needed.

 

* Idrees Mohammed is an expert in International Relations and Kurdish affairs. His MA thesis was on Turkey's policy towards Kurdistan Region. He is now focusing on Turkey's policy towards Kurds, including Syria's Kurdish. He teaches International Relations in University of Duhok’s department of Political Science. Idrees Mohammed tweets @IdreesMohammd

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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy

Last modified on Friday, 22 August 2014 16:34
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