As the situation in Iraq deteriorates further on the ground the Sunni extremists of Islamic State gain more territory. Only the Kurdish peshmurga fighters have taken IS on, and they are now warning the world of the military threat IS represents.
“These terrorists aren’t only a danger for Kurds, they’re a danger for the whole world. If they manage to take Kurdistan then they’ll invade other places, too,” said one experienced Kurdish sniper.
For weeks the Kurds, facing an enemy that has stolen tons of US-made Iraqi army equipment, have been calling for military help. The USA and France have at last agreed to supply up-to-date kit.
“Our Kalashnikovs are not adapted for fighting this sort of enemy, we are only lightly-armed. We need heavy weapons, mortars, and air strikes. We will never win with what we have now,” insisted one fighter.
The Kurds remain the only credible Iraqi fighting force in the field, and currently provide those in the north who refuse the ways of IS their only hope…as long as they can make the long and dangerous journey to their territory. The Kurds do all they can to help, and in this way are slowly imposing themselves. In the west it is known that supporting the Kurds carries risks.
Top among them is the risk of destabilisation in a country that is already salami-sliced by ethnic group or religion. As a reward the Kurds might demand the right to form their own sovereign and independent state, an historic dream of the Kurd’s government in Erbil. Euronews talked to the Kurd’s Foreign Minister:
Daleen Hassan, euronews: “Joining us from Erbil is Iraq’s foreign minister in the outgoing government and a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Hoshyar Zebari. What is the situation on the ground in the battle zone between the peshmerga and Islamic state?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “There are still clashes between the peshmerga and Islamic state. But after American strikes against some Islamic state sites, the situation began to change. I mean the balance of power has swung in favour of the peshmerga forces. They began a counter-attack against the Islamic state. During the next few days we will see decisive confrontations to expel Islamic state forces from the territories they occupied and from some vital installations.
“But the humanitarian situation is still very difficult and critical especially for Yazadis who are stranded on Mount Sinjar, despite all the efforts to free them and transfer them to safe areas. European countries have begun to react. Now the French and the United Kingdom (UK) have taken a clear position to lend their support to the peshmerga and in order to help them have provided technical equipment to fight the Islamic state.”
euronews: “There is a contradiction between UN reports that indicate there is a need to evacuate the Yazidis and Washington, which does not see the need for it what is your position?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “U.S. special forces arrived at Sinjar mountain on a special mission in order to assess the situation and see if there is a need to carry out an evacuation. That assessment showed a more comfortable atmosphere than before and there is no need for a major operation and humanitarian corridors created by the peshmerga forces can be maintained. The evacuation is in process by land and not using hovercraft and helicopters.”
euronews: “How is the Kurdistan region dealing with the problem of the refugees, Iraqi and Syrians?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “It’s the biggest challenge facing the authorities in Kurdistan. We are suffering from a major crisis in our service institutions to provide for our citizens and for the refugees. Therefore, we asked the French president for help, as well as the UK government. We also asked the European Union to establish a European airlift to transport humanitarian aid to refugees. In Kurdistan we now have about one million two hundred thousand refugees of whom a quarter of a million are Syrian.
“We have hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who sought refuge from the southern provinces, as well as minorities threatened by the Islamic state – Yazadis, Christians and Turkmen people. There is an urgent need for international humanitarian aid which is more organized and more effective.”