Turkey Planning Invasion to Stave Off Kurdish State

Turkey is planning military action in northern Syria to prevent the Kurds from forming their own state there, The Daily Beast reports, citing Turkish media.

Although there was no official confirmation, various newspapers said up to 18,000 soldiers would be deployed across the border to control territory thirty kilometers deep into Syria. The occupation zone would stretch from territories held by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army in the west to the Kurdish-controlled border town of Kobanî in the east.

Such an operation would likely require significant air and artillery support and mark a dramatic escalation of Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War, now in its fourth year.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday he could not accept a move toward Kurdish statehood in Syria. “We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria,” he said. “We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be.”

Kurdish rebels in the north of Syria have made gains against fighters of the self-declared Islamic State and started building state institutions.

Last year, they set up an independent municipal council to run affairs in one of three Kurdish administrative districts. Read more “Turkey Planning Invasion to Stave Off Kurdish State”

Islamic State Militants Target Kurds Across Iraq

Islamic State militants attacked Kurds across northern Iraq on Friday. The wave of attacks came days after Kurdish fighters said they had taken full control of the northern Syrian town of Kobanî following a four-month battle.

Police in Kirkuk said the Islamists had launched mortars and attacked positions of Kurdish forces in four districts. Fighting was reported southwest of the city. A car bomb exploded at a hotel in the center of Kirkuk and seven Kurds were killed in a suicide bombing at a checkpoint near Jalawla, a town southeast of Kirkuk.

Kurdish military sources told reporters the peshmerga had repelled dawn attacks at different points along a more than 1,000 kilometer frontline. Read more “Islamic State Militants Target Kurds Across Iraq”

Iraq, Turkey Bury Hatchet in Face of Islamic State

Iraq and Turkey said on Thursday they would improve intelligence and security cooperation in order to battle the Islamist militant group that calls itself the Islamic State. The announcement marks a turnaround in relations between two countries that were at each other’s throats just a year ago.

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad the countries had agreed to “exchange information and have full security cooperation.” He added, “The Turkish prime minister also wants us to have military cooperation in the face of terrorism and Daesh and we welcome that,” using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s former foreign minister and the architect of its failed “zero problems with neighbors” policy, said the agreement marked “a new page in relations between Turkey and Iraq and that is why I hope that there will be close cooperation between our security and intelligence agencies to defeat terrorism.” Read more “Iraq, Turkey Bury Hatchet in Face of Islamic State”

European Powers to Supply Weapons to Iraq’s Kurds

Leading European powers said this week they would provide weapons and military support to Iraq’s Kurds as they battle an Islamist insurgency that seeks to dismantle the Iraqi state and establish a caliphate spanning the whole of Mesopotamia.

Writing in The Telegraph on Sunday, British prime minister David Cameron announced that his government was identifying what equipment to supply to the Kurdish forces, “from body armor to specialist counterexplosive equipment.”

While he ruled out sending British troops back into Iraq, the premier recognized that the threat posed by the self-declared Islamic State in the country “cannot simply be removed by airstrikes alone.” If the West does not act “to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement,” he warned, “it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.”

Earlier in the week, The Telegraph had reported that Britain would initially supply high tech equipment such as night vision goggles but that ammunition and weapons could be sent if the Kurds requested it.

France and Germany — which opposed America’s and Britain’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 — also promised to lend support. Read more “European Powers to Supply Weapons to Iraq’s Kurds”

Supported by Iraqi Air Force, Kurds Battle Islamists

Kurdish militia attacked Islamist fighters southwest of their regional capital, Irbil, in the north of Iraq of Wednesday, backed, for the first time, by central government forces.

Thousands of Kurdish insurgents from neighboring Turkey and Syria attacked troops from the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) at Sinjar, a town on the road between Mosul and the Syrian border that fell to the Islamists over the weekend.

The fall of Mosul itself, Iraq’s second biggest city, two months ago shocked the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and led to the Islamists conquering huge swathes of territory in an arc from Aleppo in Syria to near the western edge of Baghdad. The group subsequently rebranded itself the “Islamic State” while its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaimed himself to be the “caliph” — the historic title of the successors of the Prophet Muhammad who ruled the entire Muslim world.

In what appeared to be a coordinated offensive, peshmerga fighters local to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government also pressed to lift the Islamic State’s siege of the Mosul Dam, the country’s largest single source of electricity. Read more “Supported by Iraqi Air Force, Kurds Battle Islamists”

Iraq’s Kurds, Accused of Backing Insurgents, Demand Maliki Resign

Masoud Barzani Joe Biden
President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq greets American vice president Joe Biden at the airport in Irbil, December 1, 2011 (White House/David Lienemann)

The leader of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government demanded Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s resignation on Thursday after the premier had accused the Kurds of harboring radical Islamists who have declared an independent caliphate in the northwest of the country.

Maliki “has become hysterical and has lost his balance”, said a statement from the office of Kurdish president Masoud Barzani. “You must apologize to the Iraqi people and step down. You have destroyed the country and someone who has destroyed the country cannot save the country from crises.”

A day earlier, Maliki had accused the Kurds of supporting the uprising by the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), saying, “We cannot be silent over this and we cannot be silent over Irbil” — the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region — “being a headquarters for ISIS and Ba’ath and Al Qaeda and terrorist operations.” Read more “Iraq’s Kurds, Accused of Backing Insurgents, Demand Maliki Resign”

Iraq’s Parliament Convenes as Country Falls Apart

Iraq’s new parliament convened on Tuesday days after Sunni militants declared an independent caliphate in the desert northwest of the country and while the Kurds in the north edged closer to independence.

The legislature met for the first time since it was elected in April when results suggested Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could easily win a third term. However, with the army seemingly incapable of fighting back an Islamist insurgency in Sunni areas of the country, pressure mounted on the Shia leader to stand down in favor of a less polarizing figure. Read more “Iraq’s Parliament Convenes as Country Falls Apart”

Iraq’s Kurds Take Kirkuk as Government Battles Islamists

Seemingly taking advantage of the central government’s inability to stem the advance of radical Sunni Islamists on the capital, Baghdad, Iraq’s Kurds on Thursday took the ancient city of Kirkuk to which they have historically laid claim.

Kurdish officials said their forces had stepped in to protect Kirkuk after government troops fled in the face of an offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni extremist group that claims affiliation with Al Qaeda but is not actually recognized by the international terrorist organization. They took Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, situated to the northwest of Kirkuk, without much army resistance on Tuesday.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters subsequently moved into Kirkuk, which lies on the border of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s autonomous territory, and took over many northern positions that had been abandoned by the national army, authorities said.

Capturing Kirkuk and the huge oil reserves it commands is an economic boon to the Kurds but perhaps even more of an emotional victory. Read more “Iraq’s Kurds Take Kirkuk as Government Battles Islamists”

Syria’s Kurds Erect Own Government Ahead of Peace Talks

Kurds in the north of wartorn Syria declared a regional government on Tuesday on the eve of peace talks in Switzerland at which they will not be represented.

The Kurds, numbering some two million and living almost entirely in Syria’s northeast, set up a municipal council to run affairs in one of three administrative districts that were earlier declared. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an advocacy group based in the United Kingdom, the body has its own president and cabinet. Elections would be held in four months’ time. Read more “Syria’s Kurds Erect Own Government Ahead of Peace Talks”

United States Ambivalent as Iraqi Kurds Move to Independence

Almost two years after the Americans withdrew from Iraq, the autonomous Kurdish region in the north looks to be their only real success story. Whereas Shia and Sunni Arabs in the rest of the country battle for control of the central government, the Kurds are quietly prospering. Yet the United States will hardly support their efforts.

Protected by a no-fly zone during the period between Saddam Hussein’s defeat in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s Kurds were able to build the institutions they needed for an independent state: a parliament, government departments of their own and separate intelligence and military services. The sectarian conflagration that characterized the last war and increased once again after the Americans pulled out in late 2011 has largely spared Kurdistan. Read more “United States Ambivalent as Iraqi Kurds Move to Independence”