Iraq’s borders are changing, Syria could be next
There are hopes that the Turks taken hostage by the organization of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which captured Iraq’s second biggest city Mosul on June 9, will be soon released.
Intense contacts were carried out on June 12 by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) to secure the release.
The Turkish consulate was not their primary target anyway. ISIL is heading south, down to Baghdad and capturing cities along the way, one by one. It seems they aim to stop there and will not mess with the southern sector of Iraq, with its Shiite Muslim population. ISIL’s aim is to establish a state with only a Sunni population, to be ruled with an orthodox version of Sunni Sharia, incorporating territories in both Iraq and Syria. It also controls important cities in Syria; after Raqqa, it is continuing its advance on Aleppo, again close to the Turkish border, as it did with Mosul.
The Iraqi army with its fancy uniforms, weapons and sunglasses acquired from American forces was helpless against the urban guerrilla forces of ISIL, trained partly by former officers of the Baathist army of Saddam Hussein before the U.S.-led invasion. The Shiite-origin prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, made all possible wrong choices by not giving any positions to Sunnis in the army, which instantly vanished in the face of the ISIL militants, while also leaving vehicles, equipment and everything else behind.
Observing the situation carefully, being sure that there was no Iraqi army left in the region in practice, the Peshmerga forces of the federal Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north of Iraq silently captured the historical city Kirkuk on June 12, which has been described by KRG leader Masoud Barzani as the “Jerusalem of the Kurds.”
The result is that within the space of four days, Iraq’s two major cities in the north, Mosul and Kirkuk, have gone out of the control of the central government in Baghdad: Mosul to radical Islamists and Kirkuk to nationalist Kurds. That also means two major oil fields, separate from the ones in the Shiite-controlled Basra in the south.
This is a picture of the division of a country. Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the country is now practically divided into three, whether or not it is recognized by the United Nations.
This is the outcome of the West’s bon-pour-l’Orient approach to politics in the region, dividing political power between ethnic and/or religious groups.
And it seems the division will spill across the region, starting from Syria. This is predictable at least from the name of ISIL, which claims to rule over the Sunni heartland of both Iraq and Syria. There is already a north-east sector of Syria by the Turkish border under the control of the Kurdish guerrilla forces under the influence of the outlawed Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has its military headquarters in northern Iraq by the Iran border in the KRG-controlled region. It is also no secret that the fallback position of Bashar al-Assad in Syria is an Alevi/Nusayri controlled strip of land along Syria’s Mediterranean shores.
That is a picture of division, regardless of whether it is recognized by neighbors or by the U.N.
There are three large and three small neighboring countries that might be affected by the situation. The big ones are Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia and the smaller ones are Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait, with Israel watching what is happening from a distance, like the bigger spectators of the U.S., Russia and U.K. This is a complicated picture, and everybody is aware that once the borders start to change, no one can guess where it will stop.