human rights watch

måndag 16 juni 2014

Unity With Kurdistan Will Stave Off the Threat


Unity With Kurdistan Will Stave Off the Threat.

The scale of Iraq’s military collapse is of historic proportions. Of nearly 250 combat battalions in the Iraqi army and federal police, almost 70 cannot be accounted for. Some will reform, but most have lost practically all of their vehicles and equipment. A quarter of Iraq’s forces are now out of the game for months at least. How can this loss be overcome in time to break the momentum of ISIS?

Only the Kurds have forces that can resist ISIS in northern Iraq, but they are girding them because of a struggle with Baghdad over oil revenue.
One option may be U.S. military strikes, but a complementary initiative is to bring the Iraqi Kurds fully into the war against ISIS. The Kurds possess the only intact armed forces capable of providing resistance to ISIS in northern Iraq, but they are girding their forces because of a bitter struggle with Baghdad over revenue-sharing and oil exports.
The geometry of the battlefield makes the Kurds particularly vital: ISIS pursued Iraq’s retreating forces south of Mosul for over 200 miles, with most units ordered to rally on Taji in Baghdad’s northern suburbs. This has given ISIS significant depth on the north-south axis, meaning that the government may need to painstakingly retake a sequence of key insurgent-held cities in turn. But due to the Kurds’ advanced positions all along ISIS’ eastern flank, the jihadist movement has very little west-east strategic depth if key centres like Mosul were counterattacked from the Kurdish-held areas. Kurdistan has offered the use of its airbases to U.S. forces many times, and they would be an ideal place from which to conduct limited U.S. airstrikes. This was precisely the formula – U.S. special forces advisers and pesh mergas – that crumbled Saddam’s hold on Mosul and northern Iraq in a matter of days in 2003.
The Iraqi Kurds are generous and brave: they hate the extremism of radical jihadist groups and will not tolerate a major jihadist center in Mosul, located just an hour’s drive east of the shining new skyscrapers of Erbil, the Kurdish capital. Indeed social media reporting of Kurdish martyrs in the fight against ISIS are proliferating. The Kurdish pesh merga are already fighting ISIS at half a dozen points from the Syrian border to Iran, with Baghdad’s air forces in support in some areas.
How can the Kurds be convinced to go beyond these limited actions and bring their 80-plus battalions fully into the counter-offensive? Simple: Baghdad has been withholding Iraqi Kurdistan’s budget since the start of 2014 in a dispute over the details of oil exports, an important issue but one that now seems petty in light of the current crisis. So job one for the United States is to keep up the pressure on Baghdad to pay the Kurds what they are owed by Baghdad, and to shelve disputes about oil and revenue issues until the threat from ISIS has been overthrown.

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