Middle East: A New Power Factor – the Islamic State Part II

Middle East: A New Power Factor – the Islamic State Part II


According to Themakeupexplorer.com, the Kurds in northern Iraq have 5-6 million inhabitants. Worldwide, there are 30 million Kurds – the largest population group that does not have its own state. Kurdistan has extensive autonomy, and in the early summer of 2014, the government prepared an advisory referendum on the establishment of its own state. But then came ISIL’s conquests. Erbil was close to falling. And the sharp fall in oil prices weakened the economic basis for a new state formation. Establishment of a separate state has therefore been set aside until further notice.
But for how long? The ambition of a separate state is at stake. Iraq can burst. If that happens, it’s likely to start with Kurdistan. Apart from the expansion of Israel’s borders, this will be the first border change in the Middle East in almost 100 years. Several attempts have been made to change the borders with military force, but they have largely run into the sand.

Iran also has a Kurdish population within its own borders and will keep the borders as they are. So will Saudi Arabia. Perhaps Libya is falling apart; Yemen’s future is uncertain; Sinai (Egypt) is out of control; no one knows the end of the civil war in Syria; and if Iraq breaks up, Saudi Arabia could be next. At least that’s the concern. The great powers want to keep Iraq united.
Turkey is a joker . Nearly half of the 3,000 foreign companies that have invested in Kurdistan are Turkish, and for Turkey, oil from the neighborhood is attractive. All in all, the Turks probably feel that they have quite good control over developments in Kurdistan, so when conditions are better, they may be able to give the green light for an independent Kurdistan.

6: The global backdrop

On August 7, 2014, President Obama said that the deteriorating conditions in Iraq had convinced him that US military action was needed to protect American lives, protect minorities in the country (including Yezidis) and halt ISIL’s advance on Erbil. The Americans have been cooperating with the Kurds ever since the first Gulf War in 1990-91 and many American companies, including Exxon and Chevron, have been involved there. Now they made a joint case with the Kurdish self-defense forces (the peshmerga). This happened just two and a half years after Obama ended his US military presence in Iraq – a flagship issue for him. The decision was therefore far-fetched, but it saved Erbil.

The next day, the bombing of ISIL targets in Iraq began. By then, Iran had had 500 soldiers from the Revolutionary Guards’ elite forces, planes and drones in place for a couple of months already, to assist the Iraqi government.

The same month, the United States initiated a broad coalition against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, as well as the Nusra Front and Khorasan in Syria, both affiliated with al-Qaeda. In addition to European countries, Canada and Australia, most countries in the Middle East joined, with the exception of Algeria, Iran, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia. Some reserved against participation in Syria, i.a. because there was no legal basis for it in international law. The government in Baghdad had asked for assistance and thus provided the coalition with international law backing , but the government in Damascus did not. However, the coalition would have stood on safer ground if it had had a mandate from the UN , because when governments have asked for help from others against their own people, legitimacy has often been lacking. For example. The government of Czechoslovakia asked for Soviet aid in 1968, but the Soviet invasion was a gross assault on the Czech people.

Norway has sent 120 officers to Erbil and Baghdad to train Kurdish and Iraqi forces. The situation in Kurdistan is clear. The Kurds are fighting to protect their territory. In Baghdad, it is currently unclear what context the training will take place in, because it is unclear what the composition of the Iraqi army will be (cf. religion and ethnicity).

7: The debate over the means

Fighting ISIL is a high priority for almost everyone, but there is a lot of debate and uncertainty about the instruments.

Countries that have foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria have taken various measures to stop this traffic. Many are worried about terrorist acts in their own country if or when combat-trained and ideologically motivated warriors return home. Everyone takes preventive measures . Strict measures such as confiscation of passports on reasonable grounds for departure have been proposed, and some have decided to prosecute those who return home. These are issues that will be much debated in the future. Different countries try their hand at each other’s situations.

The coalition is divided , and some are critical because it has no unified strategy. Others are skeptical of the use of military force, referring to the occupation of Iraq and the bombing of Libya (HHD 2012: 17). The only positive thing here was the removal of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. The rest got worse. And what has been achieved after more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan is at best an open question.

On the other hand, non-profit claims are a rare luxury in international politics. One is referred to act on the basis of the preconditions that exist. What would the situation have been like if the United States had not intervened and Erbil had fallen? Where would ISIL have been if it had kept access to the Iraqi army’s oil fields and weapons? What fate had then beenfall different thinking and believers?

One important player is outside the coalition – Iran – but in 2015, confrontation can be turned into cooperation. If Iran and the major powers agree on a nuclear deal , the doors will be opened for cooperation in both Afghanistan and Iraq and perhaps also in Syria. The United States and Iran have common enemies there, the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIL in Iraq. Both have much to gain from the stabilization of these countries, and the gradual realization of common interests there can propagate to Syria. The latter is necessary first and foremost for Syria’s own part, but also because ISIL cannot be broken in Iraq alone.


Muslim major directions

Sunni Islam and Shia Islam are the two major faiths in Islam. Sunni Muslims make up the largest group – about 80-90 percent of all Muslims. Much is the same for the two directions, but they also differ in some contexts:

In recent years, a number of smaller, radical directions within the two main directions have come into focus. Some of them are:

  • Salafists – strong believers and strictly practicing Sunni Muslims who try to live as the first generations of Muslims did, before Islam absorbed foreign elements and became more “diluted”. Some (jihadist-holy war) Salafists want armed struggle against unbelievers or corrupt states.
  • Sufists – adherents of Sufism which is a common term for Islamic mysticism and is used by both Shia and Sunni Muslim groups. A majority of Sunni Muslims consider Sufism to be part of Sunni Islam. Sufists generally place more emphasis on the inner spiritual aspect of religiosity than adhering to religious rules.
  • Wahhabites – followers of Wahhabism, a radical Islamic movement within Sunni Islam and movement founded in the 18th century by Mohammed Abd al-Wahhab. State ideology in Saudi Arabia.


Sharia law: religious laws (some of which are oral only) based on traditional commandments and prohibitions in the Qur’an and on the interpretation and interpretation of these by scribes. Sharia law should be a guide for the individual Muslim. The punishment methods seem to be very strict in some areas – at least seen with modern, western eyes: stoning, whipping, cutting hands …

Kurdistan: What are KRG and PKK?

RG: Kurdistan Regional Government: Prime Minister is Nechirvan Barzani. The country’s president is also called Barzani: Massoud Barzani. The Barzani family is a political and economic dynasty. The government is a coalition of the two largest political parties: the KDP and the PUK. PUK also houses a family dynasty: the Talabani family .

Own parliament with 111 seats, the last parliamentary elections were held in 2013 – the fourth in an “independent” Iraqi Kurdistan. For a period in the 1990s, the KDP and the PUK were in armed conflict over control of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The KDP is the “country’s largest party with the largest support in the northwest, PUK in the southeastern province of Sulaymaniyah. There, the party landscape is also more motley; the newcomer Movement for Change has become the largest there.

PKK – Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan – Turkish guerrillas who since the early 1980s have waged armed struggle against the Turkish authorities and their oppression of Kurds.

The PKK has fought to establish its own Kurdish state in areas where the majority of the population is Kurdish. It is estimated that at least 40,000 people were killed in this conflict. Almost half of all Kurds live in Turkey.

In the fierce fighting between ISIL fighters and Kurds in the Syrian city of Kobane near the border with Turkey, Turkey has long been neutral on the sidelines. For a long time, the world press had to watch desperate fighting a few kilometers away, while Turkish authorities refused to allow Kurds to cross the border to come to the aid of Kurdish peshmerga soldiers in Kobane. The Turks were probably worried that it would strengthen the Kurds in Turkey if the Kurds escaped across the border. Today, however, Kurds can once again cross the border here.

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