Thursday, 14 August 2014

On ISIS and the Kurdish Region.

Though the purpose of the US air strikes was to contain ISIS and, in conjunction with humanitarian food drops to the Yazidis to save them from imminent death, the wider purpose of this military intervention seems to have been the need to protect the Kurdish region from attack and to protect the Mosul Dam.

The reason is that ISIS could use their control of the dam to deny electricity to Iraq as a means of increasing their strength against their enemies in Baghdad and Erbil. More catastrophically, if ISIS blew up the dam a 65m high wave would be created that would cause widespread flooding and 500,000 deaths.

The determination to arm the Kurdish peshmerga and send in US and UK special forces is connected to that. Evidently, oil interests are at stake as Kirkuk is a major oil producing zone in the Kurdish region and if it were to be taken by ISIS it would increase it's revenue to fund its operations further.

Apart from that, Erbil is a major oil prospecting boomtown with Western companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil leading the exploration and drilling for oil. Had the Kurdish region not been threatened, Obama would not have decided upon risking air strikes and arming the Kurds.

Whether ISIS would blow up the Mosul dam is not certain because it has not destroyed energy installations in the territory it occupies such as the Qayara refinery. ISIS is part of a resource war backed by Arab Sunnis who lost out to the Shi'ites and Kurds after Saddam's regime was removed.

The danger with that strategy is it would lead to Kurdish demands for independence from Baghdad, something that would sink plans to try to coalition a 'unity government' that would help to draw Sunni Arabs back into the fold and end the benefits of them aligning with ISIS.

The situation in Iraq is a bloody chaos with no easy means to resolve it. It's a proxy ground, as is Syria, for regional powers vying and contending for influence. Turkey has interests in shoring up the Kurdish region as relations have warmed in recent years as oil imports have increased.

Iran would want to block moves towards Kurdish independence and autonomy as it would check their plans to have a Shi'ite dominated Iraq amenable to the promotion of its energy interests and struggle for a regional Shi'ite 'axis of resistance' to Turkish and Qatari plans to remove Assad in Syria.

Washington's policy has been vacillating and contradictory. Having made the mistake of backing the Turkish and Qatari move to remove Assad to check Iranian influence, it effectively guaranteed the space would be created that would enable a group such as ISIS to gain ground.

Whatever, the Western powers attempt through military intervention or backing the Kurds in Iraq in bound to have unforeseen consequences. Whole swathes of norther Syria and Iraq could descend into barbarism for decades due to resource struggles, global warming. crop failure and religious fanaticism.

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