President Obama has authorised air strikes in Iraq, but was his hand forced by a strategic decision to withdraw Kurdish forces?by Michael Goldfarb / August 8, 2014 / Leave a comment
The Middle East madness of the last three years has finally arrived in Kurdistan.
With thousands of Yazidis trapped by IS (Islamic State) on Sinjar mountain, and around 200,000 Iraqi Christian Arabs and Kurds in the north of the country fleeing the insurgent army, according to the UN, President Obama’s hand has been forced.
“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help,” President Obama told Americans on Thursday night. “Well, today America is coming to help.”
The President authorised limited airstrikes against IS. F-18 fighter jets already accompanied relief flights dropping water supplies and food to the hapless Yazidis on the exposed mountainside.
The question ordinary Kurds are asking in and around the Kurdish capital of Erbil is, “What happened to the Peshmerga? Where did they go?”
For Kurds it is a given that their Peshmerga fighters will protect them no matter what. They defended them during the flare-ups of fighting with Saddam and have, until the last week, kept them safe from the violent anarchy that has engulfed Iraq in the decade since the Bush administration overthrew the dictator without planning what to do next.
In the first weeks after the IS invasion in June, the Peshmerga more than held the line against them. Kurdish forces secured Kirkuk and its oil rich environs—much to the Iraqi government’s chagrin. As IS headed south towards Baghdad, the Pesh kept them pushed back from the southern limits of Kurdish territory.
Who are the Yazidis of northern Iraq?
Iraqi Kurdistan follows the arc of the mountains in the northeastern part of the country. These beautiful peaks march summit-by-summit east into Iran and north into Turkey. Kurdistan’s territory, historically, included the plains east of the Tigris and the foothills of the mountains.
It is from here that the Peshmerga disappeared in the last few days. To people who live in villages like Bashiqa, on the main road running east from Mosul to Erbil, the turnaround is inexplicable.