Amidst the recent and on-going conflict between Kurdish and Iraqi forces, the two sides have been encouraged to come together in order to combat a greater enemy. It has been confirmed that they are currently in talks following sporadic clashes over the last ten days. The US-led Coalition suggests that they should engage in dialogue and diminish internal conflict in order to prevent the resurgence of ISIS.
In a video interview posted on Friday with Rudaw, the Coalition’s spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillion stated that “We are encouraging dialogue. We’re trying to get the tensions down and to refocus our efforts on defeating ISIS”.With co-operative measures in mind, Dillion added that ISIS strives “on instability and discord between groups” and that “we cannot let them resurface. We’ve got to cut the head off of that snake and prevent them from coming back”.
Despite the nobility of the Coalition’s objective, recent escalation of conflict between the groups, and other political factors, create doubt in the co-operative capacities of parties involved. A few weeks ago 92% of Kurds voted in favour of independence from Iraq in a controversial secession vote. This initiated days of skirmish between the opposing forces. Just last week, the Iraqi military retook the oil rich city of Kirkuk out of Kurdish hands, having fled from advancing ISIS fighters in the region in 2014. Iraqi forces backed by the Iranian supported Hashd al-Shaabi continually etched towards the recognised boundaries of the Kurdish region, resulting in the exchange of heavy fire and casualties from both sides. The Kurdish Peshmerga accused the Iraqi military and the Hashd of obtaining and using American weapons supplied for the war on ISIS in the attacks. The Coalition recognised such reports but is yet to verify them stating that:
“The only elements that the United States and the Coalition work with and provide equipments to defeat against ISIS has been vetted Iraqi security units. That means they cannot be associated with the government of Iran, they cannot have a history of anything to do with terrorist organizations, and they must be free of any kind of human rights violations.”
Regardless of the on-going nature of the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict, and underlying mistrust amongst parties, it seems that the greater threat of ISIS may, for the moment, be enough to bring them together. Dillon stated that they are “trying to get the right people to the table” in terms of facilitating and engaging the necessary dialogue. A Kurdish Shiite leader told the BBC that the first step toward ‘political negotiations’ had been made. This is through the establishment of a ‘military committee’ consisting of commanders from both sides. The Secretary General of the Badr Organisation, Hadi al-Amiri told BBC reporter Nafiseh Kohnavard that a ceasefire began on Thursday night. In his interview, Dillon confirmed that a ceasefire had commenced. However, he later stated on Twitter that the ceasefire was not an official one, but that both parties were amidst talks. He further stressed that the Coalition continues to encourage the two sides to engage in talks without any further conflict or violence.
While it is inconceivable that the presence of ISIS could have a positive outcome, this may be the silver lining that the nation has been waiting for. At least in the short term, the two sides are being compelled to put aside differences and engage in constructive communication. Let’s hope they follow this trend and take the opportunity to not only defeat ISIS, but to work towards resolving the nation’s fragmented history of displacement, conflict and violence once and for all. Whilst this may be idealistic given the long-standing internal struggles in the region, this could be the first and defining step for the future peace and prosperity of the nation.
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