Publishe Date: 3:49 PM - 7/3/2014 | Print

Turkey and Kurds Must Be on Lookout for ISIL

Politics - Afshar Soleimani
Doctorate in International Relations from Baku State University &
Iran's Former Ambassador to Republic of Azerbaijan

There are certain points with regard to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) about which there is no doubt among analysts. The ISIL forces are made up of various groups that are opposed to the government of [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Al-Maliki, the government of Syria, the government of Iran, and Shias, in general. They are being financially and logistically supported by those countries that are opposed to the aforesaid governments, especially Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and are considered among extremist Sunni forces as well. The offensive they have launched in Iraq and Syria follows the parliamentary elections in Iraq and the presidential polls in Syria and Egypt, and also coincides with a time that Lebanon has been having difficulty electing its new president and presidential election in Turkey is just a few months away, and it seems that the offensive will continue unabated. There is also no doubt that the ISIL’s movements will have remarkable domestic, regional and international repercussions, especially if the international community continues to remain indifferent and do not think of a way to put a final end to the ongoing crisis in the region.

On the other hand, the United Nations has not so far held an official meeting on this crisis while other regional and international players seem indifferent as well. There is, however, no doubt that if the current state of affairs continues, the situation both in Iraq and the entire region will become more severe.

Of course, it does not seem possible that major global and regional players will continue to remain indifferent toward the crimes that are being committed by the ISIL and the threat they pose to territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Iraq. Therefore, countries that are true advocates of peace and opponents of extremism are expected to join hands as soon as possible and find an immediate solution to uproot the ISIL terrorists as a prelude to the establishment of peace and security in Iraq. Of course, the government and people of Iraq will spare no effort to overcome their infidel aggressors, who are shedding people’s blood in the name of religion. This is especially true as Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, a source of emulation for the world Shias, who is also held in high respect and trusted by Iraqi Sunnis, has already issued a fatwa (religious decree) declaring the fight against terrorist occupiers as a religious obligation. The positive signs of his fatwa can be already seen as popular forces in Iraq have joined hands with the country’s military to fight against the ISIL and they have achieved part of their goals as well.

The point which is of the highest importance is the necessity of protecting the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Iraq and preventing the country from being disintegrated into Shia-dominated, Sunni-inhabited and Kurdish regions. Achievement of this goal needs calculated measures to be taken and also hinges on a strategic viewpoint and strategic steps on the part of the Iraqi government, which should spare no effort to maintain and strengthen democracy in the country and protect the rights of all Iraqi walks of life regardless of their ethnic, tribal, linguistic, and religious affiliations.

On the other hand, the fact that the ISIL has been able to recruit new forces not just from other countries, but also from among people affiliated to the Baath Party of Iraq, supporters of the country’s former dictator Saddam Hussein, Saddam’s loyalists in the Iraqi army, as well as dissident Iraqis from all social classes and all regions, especially Sunni-dominated regions, clearly proves that the Iraqi government is suffering from management weaknesses. As a result, the government has not been able to win all people’s hearts and strengthen security structure of the Arab country, and should pay more attention to these issues. The point which is certain is that the ISIL has not recruited and trained its forces and carried out necessary preparations to attack the Iraqi cities overnight.

The background of Massoud Barzani (the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region) and political groups running the Iraqi Kurdistan Region shows that they have on their track records fighting against the dictatorial regime of Saddam and have been running the Iraqi Kurdistan according to democratic principles during the past years. Therefore, it is clear that the leaders of the Iraqi Kurdistan will never cooperate with a terrorist group because such cooperation would be a strategic mistake, which can cast serious doubt on all the efforts that the Iraqi Kurdistan leaders have made so far. In addition, in case of cooperation, they would not be immune to future threat of terrorism. Therefore, it is incumbent on the leaders of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region to takes sides with the Iraqi nation and government in order to do away with the crisis that has been fomented by the ISIL and authoritarian forces helping them. In this way, they would be in a better position to achieve whatever legitimate demand they have in cooperation with the Iraqi government.

Turkey has also learned a lot through the Syria crisis. Now, on the eve of the forthcoming presidential election in the country and amid fears about disintegration of Turkey in view of the problems that the country’s government has with its Kurdish minority and also taking into account the democratic process that governs the country, Ankara is quite unlikely to let itself be caught in the quagmire created by the ISIL terrorists.

On the other hand, since in case of making the strategic mistake of supporting the ISIL terrorist, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and Turkey will find themselves at loggerheads with international community, it seems quite unlikely that they would opt for such an approach whose cost will be high and consequences unpredictable.

In view of the current situation in Iraq and regional developments, it seems that Iraq and peaceful regional players should take advantage of any opportunity and possibility against the onslaught of the ISIL. In doing so, they can create an ad hoc strategic alliance and take serious and effective steps to both support and maintain territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Iraq, and establish peace, stability and security in that country without losing any time.

To this effect, the United Nations and its most important organ, the Security Council, as well as other international organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (though some of its members are currently supporting the ISIL), and the Non-Aligned Movement should be mobilized to take necessary steps for the termination of the crisis and restoration of peace to Iraq.

It seems the time has come for the majority of the Islamic countries that do not support terrorism and the ISIL to cooperate with the United Nations and establish a rapid deployment force in order to take expeditious steps to fight terrorism, extremism, and violence and lose no time to rein in the ISIL terrorist group.

Cooperation with the United States and the European countries can be considered as an option in this regard. Since the United States has had certain occasional interactions with some terrorist groups, the effort to make Washington join the fight against the ISIL would be an example of “killing two birds with one stone.” Such an effort will not only shed more light on true position of the United States on fighting against terrorism, but also bring to the fore the double standards applied by American leaders to such issues.
The ISIL has been, in fact, aggrandizing its military power and has been trying to prevent establishment of a united popular front against it by spreading fear and terror across the country. Therefore, it seems that Iran and certain other regional and transregional countries can engage in consultations in order to formulate and implement practical plans as a prelude to a collective strategy which can be then put into force against the ISIL and stop its further progress.

Key Words: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey and Kurds, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, Massoud Barzani, Soleimani

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