When the Islamic State (IS) launched rapid attacks on Mosul, Tikrit and large swathes of Iraq, the well-equipped and sizeable Iraqi army wilted away. Ironically, IS took large quantities of US-supplied heavy weaponry and laid siege on more Iraqi cities and then Kurdistan.
The United States led coalition has spent billions and several hundred air-strikes destroying a large proportion of their own weaponry.
As the Iraqi army evaporated, the Kurds took center stage in the battle against IS. The sacrifices of the Peshmerga have directly resulted in the IS staying largely on the back-foot and on the defensive.
It was highly symbolic that in the same week that Kurdish force took control of several towns and villages in an offensive west of Mosul bringing Mosul center firmly within range, that Kurdistan leadership was not even represented at the international anti-IS conference in London.
Kurdistan forces have gained international-wide coverage and respect as the champions of the war against IS and Western powers, seeing the strategic importance of the Peshmerga in the fight against IS, have supplied heavy weaponry and ammunition to the Kurds.
The Kurds hoped that their ever increasing strategic standing would have enshrined their quest for independence. After all, they were the real defenders of the so-called disputed territories in Iraq, it was their forces that led the push-back against IS and it was their bastion of peace and tolerance that IS wanted to break.
The Kurdish role took on greater significance for the West but yet again it appears that the Kurdish effort is diluted by the Western obsession of a united Iraq. It was as though, Iraqi Prime Ministers Haider al-Abadi presence was all that was necessary.
Baghdad has proven anything but a true representative of the Kurds. When IS attacked Kurdistan and the disputed territories that Baghdad so stubbornly refused to hold referendums over, the Iraqi army was nowhere in sight. In fact, for over a decade Baghdad has refused to fund the Peshmerga forces even though they have protected Iraqi cities amidst al-Qaeda and inter-sectarian conflict, never mind the fight against IS today.
Kurdistan President, Massoud Barzani, who expressed his disappointment at the organizers of the conference, stated “it is unfortunate that the people of Kurdistan do the sacrifice and the credit goes to others.” Barzani highlighted that the Peshmerga “are the most effective force countering global terrorism today” and that “the people of Kurdistan bear the brunt of this situation and no country or party can represent or truly convey their voice in international gatherings.”
Meanwhile, Abadi pleaded for more weapons. The problem is not providing heavy weaponry to the Iraqi army, they have already received plenty. The underlying problem is that sectarian animosity, lack of belief in a national cause and no common loyalty, means that such provisions were quickly wasted.
It is time for the Kurds to receive military assistance and the due credit they deserve. The continuous illusion of US and European powers of a unified Iraq was one of the main reasons for the IS onslaught in the first place. If Iraq as a nation was fractured before the events of 2014, it is now firmly beyond repair.
Stable, secular and pro-Western forces are values and allies that the US should be running to protect and endorse, they have hardly got them in abundance in a rapidly deteriorating Middle East.
With a major assault to retake Mosul mooted for the spring, already hesitant Kurds must be thinking twice of further sacrifices in fighting Baghdad’s war.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc.