Posted on October 6, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Military, Mosul, Politics, Politics
Iraqi Kurdistan intelligence chief Masrour Barzani. Photo: Reuters
HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Plans to launch a final assault on Mosul, the biggest city held by the so-called Islamic State, risk being undermined by Iraq’s Kurds, who have told Sky News they intend to keep the land they have captured.
The revelation, made in an interview with the Kurdish Regional Government’s National Security chief, comes as negotiations over who does what in the most complex operation so far against the so-called Caliphate enter their most crucial moments.
Lightly armed, ferociously brave, and vital to the American-led international coalition’s war against IS, Iraq’s Kurds from the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government have significantly expanded territory under their control as they have driven the extremists back.
As a result the “borders” of the KRG have been expanded well beyond the agreed limits of the region into lands claimed by Kurds for decades.
“We are not extending the territories, we’re just regaining what was originally ours. All the areas that Peshmerga are controlling we believe is part of Kurdistan and there’s no reason for the Peshmerga to leave those areas,” Masrour Barzani, the son of the Kurdistan president, said.
The Kurd policy, announced for the first time to Sky News, has caused consternation in Baghdad.
Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al Abadi, issued a statement this week warning them against their territorial ambitions.
“The aim of the battle should not be territorial conflicts but to free the citizens from the persecution of Daesh (another name for IS),” he said.
The Kurds now control Kirkuk, the biggest oil reducing region in northern Iraq, and a wide swathe of territory that they were driven out of by the regime of Saddam Hussein during his “Arabisation” of their traditional lands in the 1980s and 90s.
Resettled ethnic Arabs now have competing claims to areas now behind the front lines the Kurds insist they will not withdraw from.
This has created suspicions that they may try to seize more territory during the final stages of the Mosul campaign.
A city of 1.5 million, Mosul has been held by the extremist cult since the summer of 2014.
The majority of its population are Sunni Arabs but it has been home for millennia to a varied culture that includes Christians, Turkmen, Kurds of all sectarian hues, and others.
It put up very little resistance to the cult’s conquest.
A mixture of Iraqi government forces, Iraqi militia (both Sunni and Shi’a) as well as the Kurds are expected to take part in the final assault.
Only Iraqi special forces and local Sunni units are planned to get into the city centre. The Kurds and Shi’a militia have, officially, agreed to hold back.
But motivated by land hunger in the case of the Kurds or sectarian hatred which burns in some Shi’a militia, there is a danger of a free for all and humanitarian catastrophe.
Not least because Iraq’s splintered communities are already manoeuvring for advantage in conflicts they expect to follow the defeat of so-called IS.
“Expect terrorist organisations like ISIS to emerge again. Remember before ISIS there was al Qaeda,” Mr Barzani said.
“The root causes have to be addressed and the real problems have to be solved in order to prevent the rise of extremist, radical organisations.
“Imagine if the political structure worked there could’ve been economic prosperity, there could’ve been social order, there could’ve been peace among the people.”
But he held little hope that peace would break out any time soon.