• Wednesday 21st April 2021

To Aid Kurdistan, Look Beyond Iraq By Aliza Marcus And Andrew Apostolouaug

US has divided Kurdish interests by borders and subsumed Kurdish needs to the demands of states in the region. That policy is now out of date. Kurdish fighters are ignoring national borders to join the fight against ISIS. They are not doing this to defend Iraq — or Syria, where Kurds have been battling ISIS for over a year — but to defend this part of Kurdistan and its people.

 

To Aid Kurdistan, Look Beyond Iraq

By ALIZA MARCUS and ANDREW APOSTOLOUAUG.

WASHINGTON — The

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has forced America to return to the battlefield in Iraq. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama ordered airstrikes against ISIS fighters nearing Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, while insisting that he wouldn’t allow the United States to be “dragged” back into Iraq. If Mr. Obama really wants to ensure no boots on the ground, he will have to rethink America’s policy toward Kurdish nationalism, and recognize the Kurds, and not only Iraqi ones, are his main ally against ISIS.

Mr. Obama, like previous presidents, has divided Kurdish interests by borders and subsumed Kurdish needs to the demands of states in the region. That policy is now out of date. Kurdish fighters are ignoring national borders to join the fight against ISIS. They are not doing this to defend Iraq — or Syria, where Kurds have been battling ISIS for over a year — but to defend this part of Kurdistan and its people.

In the past week, Syrian Kurdish fighters have saved thousands of Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority, by helping them to escape ISIS attacks in Iraq. At the same time, Turkish Kurdish fighters have deployed their forces to protect the oil-rich Iraqi Kurdish city of Kirkuk and have helped defeat ISIS near the town of Makhmur.

Syrian and Turkish Kurdish fighters are motivated by the threat ISIS poses to the only internationally recognized Kurdish entity in the region, the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. Their arrival, however, was necessitated by the weakness of the K.R.G., which lacks a unified army.

America’s only partner in the Kurdish region is unlikely to deliver victory against ISIS on its own, even with American military aid. To stop ISIS, Washington needs to engage politically with all Kurdish forces, not just the Iraqi ones.

Indeed, Syrian and Turkish Kurdish fighters are gaining influence and a stronger foothold. America can no longer ignore them. Consideration of other assistance — whether financial or military — should depend on political developments and the urgency of the situation.

Although Washington has long been wary of Kurdish nationalism, it is a powerful mobilizing force. It also converges with America’s strategic interests. The Kurdish groups from Syria and Turkey reject radical Islamism. They are secular nationalists and natural American allies.


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