The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as Islamic State (IS) have waged war on minorities and those who oppose them in Iraq. As a result, thousands were forced to seek refuge in Kurdistan region. The Peshmerga (Kurdish equivalent of military forces) have battled with them in several key areas, where both sides have suffered losses. The Kurdistan Region’s President has reached out to the international community, urging them for military support in the face of terror groups in the region.
Several countries have provided Kurdistan with military aid, including non-lethal weapons. Consequently, some academics have shown concern over the handling of weaponry. Two leading academics were consulted over this issue, and their views are as follows:
The Ministry of Peshmerga has unified 12 divisions under their direct control, which constitutes as 20% of Peshmerga forces, according to Mariwan Wria Kanie, an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam. The remaining 150,000 Peshmerga forces are under the executive control of the two ruling parties, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Mariwan Wria Kanie believes those who joined the Peshmerga divisions in early 2000 and onwards are closely tied to the respective political parties mentioned above, and are often more concerned with maintain a salary, as opposed to genuine military ambitions.
He said, “Distributing arms should be simultaneously collides with forming a professional, united, non-political and national army. The ones who has arming Kurdistan should focus on that and arm Peshmerge on the base of this condition”. This could be dealt with, if a unified Kurdish military exists without political party loyalties, as pointed out by Shivan Fazil.
Kanie went on to say, “in the absence of a professional, non-politicized, and national army, distributing arms on the political parties will create huge problems in the future for Kurdish society and the political pluralism of Kurdistan. The danger is to the extent that each influential political figure within the same political party owns a special army. Apart from that this would lead to having more than an army head, this causes having different sources of getting command, each army gets commands from a different source which eventually a military mess will emerge as we have seen recently some elements of this mess”.
Rauf Kareem Mahmood, PhD in linguistics and language of Media shared similar concerns. He said, “The Peshmerga are not united as a national army. They are divided into two major military forces. It creates tension and fear among parties that do not have their own Peshmerga forces. In retrospect, the entire democratic process in Kurdistan is jeopardised by having political parties rule Peshmerga forces”.
Despite these concerns, Mahmood and Kanie agree that ISIS are a regional and international threat that can only be contained using high-tech equipment.
Kanie said, “ISIS are effectively a terror state, and arming Peshmerga forces is necessary to stop ISIS advancements. The Iraqi government has not given Peshmerga forces their due share of weapons, and the initiative by western countries to deal with Kurdistan directly is an opportunity to strengthen Peshmerga military forces defence”.
- International weapons received should be dealt with under the jurisdiction of Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Peshmerga.
- Countries providing weaponry should be requested to train Peshmerga forces on how to handle weapons provided.
- Peshmerga training should be overseen by an independent body commissioned by the Ministry of Peshmerga to ensure that they are fully equipped and prepared for the battlefield.
Mariwan Wria Kanie is an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam. He is the co-fonder of Rahand group, an intellectual group focused on socio-political issues of Kurdish society.
Rauf Kareem Mahmood holds a PhD in Linguistics and Language of Media from the School of Language at the University of Silemani, Kurdistan. He is the Dean of the school of Language and Culture at Silemani University’s department of Human development.
Note: An earlier version of this article was published this week, and in response to constructive criticism provided, additional changes have been made.