Experts gathered at a conference in Erbil on Sunday, called “The Future of Armed Forced in a Democratic Kurdistan.” The conference was organized by the Middle East Research Institute (MERI), who brought together military experts, Kurdish politicians and foreign officials, as well as the Peshmerga themselves.
The subject of debate was whether or not the current conflict with the so-called Islamic State lays the groundwork for the historically divided Peshmerga to unite, once and for all.
Peshmerga: Historically Divided
The Peshmerga, or “those who stand in front of death” serve as the Kurdish Army in Iraqi Kurdistan, and have historically fought for different political factions at different points throughout Kurdistan’s long history.
The biggest clash of Peshmerga occurred during the Kurdish civil war in the mid 1990’s when the Peshmerga of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) fought one another over regional control in northern Iraq, or Iraqi Kurdistan.
The Kurdish history of guerilla warfare is making it difficult for the Peshmerga to unite once and for all. Currently, approximately 1/3 of the entire estimated Peshmerga army serves under the Ministry of Peshmerga, the Kurdistan Regional Government‘s branch that oversees the Peshmerga. The other two thirds remain loyal to the PUK and the KDP, respectively.
Division is an Obstacle for Aid
Many of the experts at Sunday’s conference argued that the divide between the branches of the Peshmerga are a barrier and obstacle for military foreign aid — foreign aid that is desperately needed at a time when Iraqi Kurdistan faces a mortal threat from the so-called Islamic State.
Other experts argued that the unification of the Peshmerga could never happen in such a short amount of time — after all, the forces loyal to the PUK and KDP have been fighting one another for over 30 years.
Still other experts argued that even if the different factions of Peshmerga were able to unite, the United States and others would stick to their commitment of arming the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.
Whatever the outcome, Peshmerga forces are some of the best, and only, forces that are preventing the so-called Islamic State from overrunning the entirety of Iraq. The United States must seek to help them in any way possible.[Read more at Rudaw]
Photo credit: Bill Carter