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  “But all the arms here are old and the ammunition is out of date.”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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid