Monday, April 25, 2016

The Kurds are fighting who?

The big news out of Iraq remains the battle between the Peshmerga and other forces.

  1. Tuz Khurmatu: Kurd Youth who defended themselves from Shia Militias, replace Iraqi flag after capturing a checkpoint

DOW JONES explains it this way, "A firefight between Iraqi Kurdish fighters and a Shiite militia in northern Iraq has left at least 27 of the combatants dead and threatens to fray Iraq's fragile anti-Islamic State alliance."

But non-western outlets explain it a little differently.  Dalshad Abdullah, Manaf al-Obeidi and Hamza Mustapha (ASHARQ AL-AWSAT) report:

Kurdish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Iranian soldiers and militants belonging to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah had been a part of the recent battles, fighting alongside the Mobilization Forces.
During the first hours of battle, over 25 combatants belonging to the Turkmens’ side were reported dead.
On its behalf, the Turkmen party accused groups of militants coming from beyond borders of instigating dispute among the people of Tuz Khormato. In an announcement, Turkmens called out the voice of reason found in everyone to rule, so that civilians would not have to pay the price of an armed conflict.

And you know it's big news because habitual Tweeter Brett McGurk's taken to Twitter to Tweet repeatedly this morning about everything . . . except this conflict.  (He's now headed to Kuwait.)

Stratfor offers an analysis which opens:

In some ways, the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq has masked the country's deep fragmentation. During their campaign against the jihadist group, Iraq's many ethnic and religious groups have often cooperated with one another. United by a desire to reclaim territory from the jihadist group, the Kurdish peshmerga, Shiite militias and Sunni tribal militias, along with the Iraqi government forces, have launched numerous joint operations. But competing goals among the groups, all of which desire more economic resources, territory and political influence, will bring them into conflict. Over the course of the operations themselves, longstanding tensions between the factions have already manifested. The struggle for influence and control among the groups will emerge even more fully as they overcome their common enemy.
Although Iraq's ethnic and religious communities exert their influence in the country in different ways, they share one important means in common: their militias. In Iraq, a claim to territory often translates to a claim to power. To a great extent, this is a symptom of the weakness of the Iraqi security forces. Numbering under 150,000 in front-line forces, Iraq's military suffers from poor leadership and logistics, dismal salaries and weak morale. As a result, militias in Iraq have risen to prominence, throwing much-needed support behind the Iraqi security forces. At the same time, the militias come with their own agendas. 

Who is the US backing again?

The 'government of Iraq'?

Isn't that the lie the White House keeps offering.

Seems like they're backing Iranian militias.

Meanwhile people continue to talk about the supposed impending liberation of Mosul.  Keep talking, as they have been since the start of the year.  Doesn't really seem any closer than it was in 2015 but they do love to talk.  (Yes, you can include Fred Kaplan in that.)  They're just convinced it's happening or about to happen or 'turned corner' all over again in the never ending waves of Operation Happy Talk.

In anticipation that it might happen, Human Rights Watch has issued an alert which opens:

Iraqi government forces gearing up to drive Islamic State fighters from Mosul should prioritize protection of civilians. Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, took control of in June 2014.
ISIS and pro-government forces both have records of harming civilians during and after military operations. The United States, Iran, Germany, and other states providing military support to Iraq should condition their support on scrupulous respect for the laws of war, which prohibit attacks that disproportionately harm civilians or fail to distinguish civilians and civilian objects from military objectives.
“Protecting civilians from needless harm needs to be paramount in any battle for control of Mosul,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “It’s essential for the Iraq government to exercise effective command and control over all its forces, and for allies like the US and Iran to make sure they do so.”
 Human Rights Watch has, since 2014, documented laws of war violations by the Iraqi military and the largely Shia militias that make up the Iraqi government’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fighting ISIS, including summary executions, disappearances, torture, use of child soldiers, widespread building demolition, indiscriminate attacks, and unlawful restrictions on the movement of people fleeing the fighting.
Human Rights Watch also called on ISIS forces to respect the laws of war, and in particular to allow civilians to leave areas under their control, not to use civilians to shield its military objectives from attack, and not to use child soldiers.

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