Whither the Kurds?

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Whither the Kurds?

Big story today out of the Middle East:

US-backed militias have taken the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces raised a militia flag inside Raqqa stadium on Tuesday, one of the last remaining areas that were held by the Islamic State in its former capital, a Reuters witness said.

The flag of the Kurdish YPG, the strongest of the militias in the SDF, was planted in the middle of the stadium, where fighting had ended but which had not been fully cleared of landmines, militia fighters told the witness.

It really is impossible to overstate how important a symbol Raqqa was for ISIS.

The fall of the city of Raqqa, where the Islamic State staged euphoric parades after its string of lightning victories in 2014, is a potent symbol of the jihadist movement's collapsing fortunes. From the city, the group planned attacks abroad.

The graphic at the top of this page is from Business Insider, and it is the best I’ve seen at showing exactly where things stand right now.  The Kurds have made headway all across the northern front, while the Iraq military (and the Syrians for that matter) have seen far more modest gains in displacing the fighters. 

It would be reason for one of the biggest celebrations ever…..were it not for the Iraqi government/military not being pleased with the Kurds achieving such victories.

From the New York Times:

After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government carried out a military assault on Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation’s Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

The deadly clashes pitted two crucial American allies against each other, with government forces seizing Kirkuk from Kurds who had intended to build a separate nation in the northern third of Iraq.

The Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence from Iraq in a referendum three weeks ago. The United States, Baghdad and most countries in the region had condemned the vote, fearing it would fuel ethnic divisions, lead to the breakup of Iraq and hobble the fight against the Islamic State.

Iraqi government troops and the Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, are both essential elements of the American-led coalition battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Both forces are supplied and trained by the United States.

This really seems to be the case of 3 parties to a conflict who all hate each other, and one sits back to take on the winner of the other two.  Only, I’m not certain this one comes out good for the Iraqi military long term.  They made slow progress the entire way through this campaign, while the Kurds are out there putting rounds on target.  Those Pesh forces are now battle-hardened and eager to have their own country.

From the Iraqi perspective, they need the Kurds because of the oil reach area they currently occupy.  The Kurds need the Iraqis……why?  I suppose to hold the Turkish powers at bay?  The U.S. just wishes they’d work it out, and is already threatening them if they can’t:

The U.S. may consider halting its massive train-and-equip program for Iraqi forces if the Iraqi military continues its offensive against Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq, a defense official said Monday.

Over the weekend U.S.-equipped Iraqi forces entered Kirkuk, an oil-rich, Kurdish-controlled city, in response to the Kurdish region’s independence vote on Sept. 25. Several exchanges of gunfire were reported Monday as Iraqi forces took over Kurdish-controlled buildings and facilities in Kirkuk.

The U.S.-led task force in command of operations in Iraq and Syria issued a statement Monday that urged all sides to avoid escalations, but downplayed the movement of Iraqi military vehicles into Kirkuk as “coordinated movements, not attacks,” and called the predawn gunfire “a misunderstanding and not deliberate.”

Small arms fire is never a great thing, whether a misunderstanding or not, and this is a pretty laughable statement if it wasn’t terrifying.  If the Kurds get full independence, they’ll be like a little oasis surrounded by Iraqi, Turkey and Iran.  Not ideal, as Turkey in particular is not ready to cede Kurdish areas to a greater “Kurdistan.”  But the Kurds have been positioning for autonomy for hundreds of years, and they finally seem like they might have the fighting force to back it up. 

Let’s hope that some reasonable solution presents itself, because we can’t have a pro-western enclave stuck in the middle of 3 different countries that would be intent on starving the area out.    

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It's about time we finally had some good news regarding ISIS. We will probably never be able to eliminate them but we can at least contain them to a manageable size.

It's about time that other forces and countries are leading the fight against terrorism. Let this be a lesson to others that their involement to fight is a major key in gaining a great advantage on this war against ISIS...

I salute the will, courage, and strength of the Kurdish soldiers. The Iraqis owe them a debt of gratitude and some measure of sovereignty. I do not know if a Kurdish independent state is the answer, but I hope that the future bodes well for the Kurds, the Iraqi, the Turks, and the democratic Syrians.

Agree with Dave Huggett’s comments completely.
As an Army veteran of Vietnam and all most 10 more years living and working in the Middle East I never found more loyal pro-American allies then the Kurds.
And as Dave wrote there are certainly good examples like Israel surrounded by those who would seek their destruction. Sadly America is a fair weather friend and just like we abandoned South Vietnam our government will abandon the Kurds as their voice in the beltway will not be heard.
I would be surprised if the author of this report ever had boots on the ground anywhere in that part
of the world.

Yes, American citizens do have the right to express themselves under the First Amendment and the First Amendment does not dictate the manner in which we can do this. The "kneeler's" can use this argument all day long but it will not change the fact that what they're doing is in very poor taste, the venue in which they've chosen to do so is totally inappropriate and their behavior is utterly disrespectful. They've done nothing but create intensive anger and hate among many citizens. This does not help their cause. It has divided people instead of bringing people together. Their kneeling is no longer about a cause. It is about defiance!!

#1) They are NOT protesting against the flag or the country -- that was something President Trump brought into the discussion.

These guys are using their visibility to draw attention to the unequal treatment of people based on race. A justifiable cause by most everyone's standards. Seems like a pretty good option over rioting and damaging cities and properties. Look back at the protests of the 60s and 70s. It took those messages to raise awareness of the wrongs that were happening in the government surrounding the war in Vietnam.

Until the problem gets fixed that the NFLers are highlighting, continuing to bring attention to the issue should not go away. And yes, Carrie. I'm a Vet. One that hates the current injustices we are surrounded by.

I do not know of any job that while you are at work in uniform for your owner that you are allowed to show your political beliefs while on the job and not get fired. The minute they are outside of the building on their own time they can do what they want. when you are at work you do as you are told and are hired to do. If you don't like it ---go find a different job. that is the only right you have . Your work has nothing to do with free speech or voicing your believes while on the job

Um I do, it’s called a white-collar professionial. People discuss their political views openly at the workplace and no one really gets offended. Also, any life’s work that is worth a damn is referred to as a “career” and not a “job”; jobs are what high school kids and losers have.

Iraq is a western created country made up of 3 Islamic factions that all hate each other. Bush & Rummy blew the opportunity to correct this 14 years ago. The Kurds have been suppressed by the Islamic bullies surrounding them and surprisingly they want their own rule. I think we ought to sit down with Iraq and Turkey to find a solution that all involved could live with. Kurds may have to realize a small country is better than none. Iraq may have to concede some oil fields. Turkey may have to give up a little territory and quite the brutal suppression of the Kurds.

They have been fighting for over 3,000 years and they will continue to fight. It is tribal or religious differences and we are not going to solve these problems by backing another puput government. Bring our troops home, 17 years is long enough and we do not make any difference, just prop up another government that will continue to abuse their own people. We should have learned that in Vietnam but our leaders don,t seem to get the lessons of past history. The only reason we are there is the oil. If the oil ran out we would leave, so I am against sending our young people to fight for some company to make profits from oil. There are wars going on all around the earth but our LEADERS choose to support the wars in the oil producing countries not in other places where there are problems. I have talked to several ground troops who have returned from the battle fronts and I asked them not counting the military and government leaders in these countries, do the common people who live in the towns and areas where the fighting is taking place want or like the US troops over there and I get the same response, NO THEY HATE US; WE ARE DESTROYING THEIR COUNTRY AND THEY WANT US TO LEAVE. Put the troops we bring back along our southern border and stop the flow of drugs and illegals into our country. Several of my hispanic friends who went thru the proper channels to come to this country and did it the legal way voted for President Trump because these illegals compete for their jobs also. With the money and equipment, drones, we have overseas we could close down illegal border crossings and search each and every vehicle that enters the US.

Paid Troll.

I do not share everyone's optimism. All three surrounding countries (Turkey, Iraq, and Iran) are against/afraid of a free Kurdistan, and will eventually act together to squash the Kurd's dreams.

I agree that they have a fine fighting force, but they cannot take on all three countries.
I also agree that the Kurds are our only real alley in that area, and I hope our government decides to support their efforts.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.