News / Middle East

Leading Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Futurei
X
August 19, 2014 8:54 PM
Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Henry Ridgwell

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State group.  But there are concerns a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state.  The Kurdistan Regional Government says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.

On the outskirts of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, traders display AK-47 assault rifles alongside other aging weapons and ammunition.  Business is booming; after a decade of relative peace, the Kurds in northern Iraq believe their existence is threatened by the Islamic State militant group. 

Lukman Qader is among the hundreds of customers browsing the market.
 
“Just like other people I have come here to buy a weapon to defend my family and my homeland,” he said.  “But all the arms here are old and the ammunition is out of date.”
 
Western arms

The Kurds’ Soviet-era arsenal is being updated, as several Western countries, including the United States and France, have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
 
The Kurds have long dreamed of an independent homeland, and the arrival of advanced Western arms could have unintended consequences, says Afzal Ashraf of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
 
“The Kurdish homeland straddles what is Iraq, what is bits of Iran, and Syria, and Turkey.  And if there are nationalists in the Kurdish Regional Government who want to pursue that agenda with those additional arms and with the additional experience, they could pose a threat to stability in that region,” he said.
 
This week Kurdish forces, backed by the Iraqi army and aided by U.S. airstrikes, seized control of the strategic Mosul Dam from Sunni militants.  The battle against the Islamic State, or ISIS, militants, is uniting rival Kurdish factions, says Zeynep Kaya of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.
 
“ISIS is bringing the Kurds in Syria and the Kurds in Iraq together, even though the [rival Kurdish factions] KDP and PYD were not on good terms until recently," she said. "Now, the PYD and PKK forces also are helping Peshmerga.”
 
PKK militants fought a decades-long war for autonomy against the Turkish state.  Peace talks are ongoing.  The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq would be reluctant to upset Ankara by stirring Kurdish nationalism, says Kaya.
 
Oil wealth

“KRG’s oil exports depend on Turkey," she said. "So the more the Kurdistan Regional Government is increasing its power in the region and within Iraq, the more it is becoming sort of dependent on Turkey.”
 
The oil wealth has caused friction with Iraq's central government.  Economic independence from Baghdad is a key demand of the Kurds, says representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in London, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman.
 
“They [Baghdad] have tried to centralize control of the oil and gas sector, we have of course gone against that.  Where Baghdad has failed to control us, they have punished us," she said. "Since January we have not had our budget.  It is a ridiculous situation that today, Kurdistan is facing the most well-armed and rich terrorist organization in the world, and yet we have not had our budget from Baghdad.”
 
If Iraq is to survive as a state, there will have to be big changes, says Abdul Rahman.
 
“Even after [the Islamists] are pushed out, defeated, and we go back to, let us say business as usual, it will not be business as usual.  The fact is that Iraq has to be regionalized if it is going to stay together,” she said.
 
The future of Kurdistan will have to wait.  The Kurds, the Iraqi army and the West are united in battle against the Islamic State militants.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More