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Kurdistan vs ISIS: Erbil at the turning point epos_print_logo.png
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Kurdistan vs ISIS: Erbil at the turning point

Monday, 18 August 2014 13:43
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Epos converses with Dr. Dawood Atrushi

by Nicolamaria Coppola (EPOS)
EPOS Conversations

The huge offensive launched in some areas of Iraq by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, has taken the federal Republic to the brink of a sectarian civil war. As Iraq's army literally run away under the advantage of Sunni militants, ISIS overrun major towns and cities including Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

In the meanwhile, ISIS has proclaimed an Islamic state, the "Caliphate" of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wiping away post-colonial borders across much of Syria and Iraq. Moreover, the jihadists joined with other Sunni insurgent groups opposed to the Shia government in Baghdad, and they launched an assault on the northwestern area of Sinjar, a historical home for the Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority that follows a pre-Islamic faith rooted in Zoroastrianism and has been repeatedly targeted.

The ISIS advance raised concerns that the main dam north of Mosul could fall, but Kurdish sources said the Peshmerga's elite Zerevani unit was still holding out. Peshmerga are widely perceived as Iraq's best organised and most efficient military force, and they are gaining territory south and east of the Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG area, including the disputed Kirkuk. Kurdish leaders, including KRG President Massoud Barzani, have indicated that they do not intend to give up control of the so-called "disputed territories".

Ties between Baghdad and Erbil have been tense for years, as issues such as oil revenue and political power cause friction. In the middle of the current crisis in Iraq and the political impasse in Baghdad, Barzani has asked the Kurdish Parliament to prepare for an independence referendum. It is very difficult to predict the future of the Federal Republic of Iraq, but it is clear that the crisis is threatening Iraq's very existence.

EPOS has interviewed Dr. Dawood Atrushi, the Vice-president for International Relations at the University of Duhok, in Iraqi-Kurdistan. He is responsible for developing and overseeing a variety of university-wide initiatives and policies related to international research and education. In this exclusive interview for our magazine, Dr. Atrushi talks about the current situation in Iraq, whether the Kurds can hold against ISIS, what the latest developments mean for the Peshmerga fighters, the Kurdish bid for independence and the future of the whole country.

EPOS: Dr. Dawood, first of all many thanks for accepting our interview.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, worldwide know as ISIS, has received a lot of international attention since it took Mosul. What are your thoughts on ISIS as an organization and its attacks in Iraq?

Dawood Atrushi: The organization is barbaric and unique in its ideology and actions. Its attack on Iraq and Kurdistan is most probably supported by states in the region and maybe countries outside the region. The supporting sources to this terrorist organization should be stopped, and an urgent collective international fight by all means against ISIS is needed.

EPOS: Can the Kurdish Peshmerga hold out against ISIS?

Dawood Atrushi: ISIS has both money and most advanced American weapon at the moment, and I do not think Peshmerga can hold out against ISIS alone. Peshmarga needs more advanced weapons and continues airstrike backing them on the ground. The war against ISIS is a war for all who wants to have a peaceful world, and thus the international community is obliged to take part in it. Peshmerga are fighting on behalf of all, including the western countries, at the moment, and thus it is very important that it gets all the military support it needs. This support has to be long lasting.

EPOS: Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been very active in the current fighting in Iraq and have, for example, seized the disputed city of Kirkuk, an important oil hub. What is the aim and strategic thinking of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and its armed forces in the conflict?

Dawood Atrushi: Well, the KRG wants to have the Kurdish areas back under its control, and help the people to go back to their homes as soon as possible. KRG must also work for a referendum and if the results show that the Kurds wants to have an independent Kurdistan the KRG has to work further with that.

EPOS: What are the territorial ambitions of the Kurds in the region?

Dawood Atrushi: The Kurds wants to have all what is called the disputed areas back.

EPOS: There have been some reports of Syrian Kurds crossing the border to help Iraqi Kurds fight ISIS. How much cooperation is there between Iraqi Kurds and Syrian Kurds?

Dawood Atrushi: I am not sure how much the cooperation is, but such cooperation simply shows that the Kurds have the same cause, and their problem should be solved no matter where they live. The future of the Kurds in all four parts of Kurdistan is in one or another way linked together.

EPOS: Former Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki authorized air support for the Peshmerga in fighting the jihadists in the area of Sinjar. What does this kind of unprecedented move say about the Iraqi government’s fear of ISIS?

Dawood Atrushi: Not only the Iraqi government, but even the Western countries have fear of the ISIS development. Unfortunately the support from the Iraqi government to the Kurds did come late, and after ISIS had killed hundreds of Yazidi Kurds and had taken over a huge land in Sinjar area. Still there are thousands of Yazidi Kurds in ISIS’s hands, and I think there is a need for establishing a special force with the task to save their life.

EPOS: During the current crisis, the relationship between the central and regional governments has seriously deteriorated to the point that Kurdish President Massoud Barzani has begun to talk about independence more and more. Will the Kurds in Iraq push for independence? How united are the different Kurdish factions on this issue? Do you see this as the culmination of Kurdish nationalist ideas or just a dispute between two political leaders or a mix of both?

Dawood Atrushi: The Kurds have been through suppression, wars, and several genocides in their history. All attempts to support Kurds humanitarian has shown that the Kurdish problem has not been solved. The only solution to the problem is to have an independent Kurdistan. All the Kurdish political fractions are agree and united on this issue. No mater how much time this can take, but the Kurds will not give up their goal.

EPOS: What do you think of the election of Fuad Masum? Do you think that he will keep united all the different souls of the Federal Republic of Iraq?

Dawood Atrushi: Mr. Fuad Masum has a long experience in politics, but I am not sure if he can bring all the groups together and make everybody happy at the same time. There is mistrust among the groups, and interference from the neighboring countries in Iraq. Iraq can not function in a united territory anymore, and the Iraqis can not be forced to live together. The solution lays in the division of the country.

EPOS: Do you personally think that this is the right and proper moment to ask for independence of Kurdistan?

Dawood Atrushi: As you know, the situation in Kurdistan is terrible and the Kurds again are exposed to another genocide. Almost the only hope the Kurds have right now is the urgent support from the international community. I am very happy that several European countries have shown willingness to support the Kurds with humanitarian assistance and some also with military assistance. The Kurds have been going under suppression, wars and genocides time after time during the history due the mistake done by Western counties, and specially by UK and France after the World War I. We hope that we soon will experience the end of the Sykes-Picot agreement from 1916, and the Kurds get chance to decide their future. The ISIS has to be thrown out of the Kurdish area, and the international community has to support an independent Kurdistan. The time will be perfect after the ISIS is out of Kurdistan.

EPOS: If KRG will gain the independence, what will this mean for Iraq, the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish community in terms of historical, political, economic and security implications?

Dawood Atrushi: Kurdistan will certainly grow economically, and it can play a significant role in the security of the region. It will become an end to the suppression of an ethnic group, and implementation of the right of self-determination. It will also have an impact on solving the Kurdish and other minority’s problem in our neighboring countries.

EPOS: Many Kurds in Iraq have an idea of pan-Kurdish state. Do Kurds in those other countries have the same vision and idea of nationalism as their Iraqi brothers?

Dawood Atrushi: I am not sure if all Kurds believes in having a pan-Kurdish state, but certainly, and as the result of the suppression, the Kurds wants to have independency.


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy

Last modified on Monday, 18 August 2014 14:41

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