Thursday, November 12, 2015

Operations to clear Sinjar of ISIS may sow the seeds of future Arab-Kurd conflict in Iraq and Syria.

By Christopher Kozak
From ISW's October 31, 2015 to November 8, 2015 Weekly Intelligence Summary:

Current dynamics in Iraq and Syria threaten to sow the seeds of future Arab-Kurd conflict. The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition depends on Kurdish forces as a primary ground partner in both Iraq and Syria. Iraqi Kurdish forces will soon launch an offensive to retake the ISIS-held town of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq near the Syrian border with support from the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. Kurds and Arabs have historically contested the town, which Kurds sometimes refer to as a land-bridge to Syria. Arab-Kurdish violence in Iraq could reignite even as ISIS loses terrain. Meanwhile, Syrian Arab fighters operating alongside Kurdish forces in northern Syria attacked the ISIS-held town of al-Hawl near the Iraqi border west of Sinjar. Syrian Kurdish forces have nonetheless faced persistent accusations of "ethnic cleansing" against Arab civilians during operations to clear ISIS-held areas in Northern Syria. Arab-Kurdish tensions in both countries will grow if Kurdish forces attempt to seize other disputed regions. Competition over territorial gains could fuel intra-Kurdish conflict, both between Iraqi and Syrian Kurds as well as within the divided Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Continued Kurdish expansion will also face strong opposition from Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan pledged to take a harsh stance against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) across the border in Iraq and Syria after successfully consolidating his political power in parliamentary elections.