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The Kurdistan region enjoys autonomy in Iraq, and that has meant running its own airports; borders; maintaining its own Peshmerga security forces; and exporting oil through its own economic management.

Baghdad now wants to use the referendum as an excuse to roll that back.

With the war on the Islamic State seemingly close to an end, Baghdad wants to punish the Kurdish region for seeking independence.

Frantzman, Seth J.  “How Baghdad is Punishing the Kurds Post-Referendum.”  Jerusalem Post, October 4, 2017.

BackChannels has turned up the following themes related to the Kurdish struggle for independence:

  1. Iranian resistance expressed in Iraq via Iran aligned and backed Shiite militia.
  2. Persistence of the Kurdish PKK and a perhaps too robust relationship with a persistently feudal and political absolute, criminal, and totalitarian Russia.
  3. Inability, so far, to attenuate the power of chiefs and produce a disciplined and power balancing democracy.

Reference – Iraq: Iran Aligned Shiite Militia

Note, please, the date year associated with reference.  Whether 2015, earlier, or later, BackChannels’ Kurdish source has cited Iraq’s Iranian-aligned Shiite militia as posting a persistent challenge to the defense of the Kurd’s ancestral land.

Khedery, Ali.  Iran’s Shiite Militias Are Running Amok in Iraq.  Foreign Policy, February 19, 2015.

Washington’s response to the Islamic State’s (IS) advance, however, has been disgraceful: The United States is now acting as the air force, the armory, and the diplomatic cover for Iraqi militias that are committing some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet. These are “allies” that are actually beholden to our strategic foe, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and which often resort to the same vile tactics as the Islamic State itself.

Vatanka, Alex and Sarkawt Shamsulddin. “Forget ISIS: Shia Militias Are the Real Threat to Kurdistan.” The National Interest, January 7, 2015:

 . . . from the KRG perspective, two Shia militia forces—Asaib Ahl Haq and the Badr militias—are uncontrollable.

Both these militias are backed by Iran, and the their military operations are effectively overseen by Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Qods Force, which serves as the external arm of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Rudaw.  “Peshmerga commander warns Shiite militias a threat to Kurds.”  September 8, 2016.  The piece winds around but ends this way:

Hashd al-Shaabi is the defender of “Iraqi sovereignty and its unity,” he declared, and it will not fight any other group except ISIS.

Kurdish Peshmerga and Shiite militia forces have clashed several times in Kirkuk’s southern ethnically-mixed city of Khurmatu in recent months. Several people from both sides were killed in the confrontations.


Ahmad, Aziz.  “The Defeat of ISIS Must Mean an Independent Kurdistan.”  The New York Times, July 13, 2017.

A century after the breakdown of the Ottoman boundaries, Iraq remains a forced union of peoples whose national aspirations and sense of identity have been suppressed. Members of my family spent decades in exile from successive Iraqi governments that, since the turn of the 20th century, butchered generations of Kurdish men, women and children who struggled to find their place in this artificial state.

Thus there has always been a lingering, unresolved question of identity for the Kurds of Iraq. That identity will finally achieve resolution when the people of Iraqi Kurdistan vote in the referendum. This expression of popular will should not only close a long chapter of grief but also bring new certainty and stability to an increasingly volatile region plagued by sectarian conflict and bloodshed.

Hannah, John.  “The United States Must Prevent Disaster in Kurdistan.”  Foreign Policy, October 2, 2017:

Of special concern was the possibility that Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq could seek to gain political advantage by challenging Kurdish control in the oil-rich, ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories also claimed by the central government in Baghdad.

John Hannah relays a chilling list of actions taken or threatened by Iraq and Turkey in their pique with the Kurdish referendum. He goes on to note the following and then pleads for Washington’s regaining its own initiative in moral courage in partnering with the Kurds and forestalling the escalation of force applied in keeping them captive to forces clearly out of step with Washington’s moral and political missions:

I was taken aback by the intense frustration and anger directed at a critical wartime ally and longtime, loyal U.S. partner whose history of oppression and even genocide at the hands of other nations leaves it with — if nothing else — an almost unimpeachable moral case for self-determination.

Reference – Kurdish PKK

Posted to YouTube August 21, 2017.

Posted to YouTube June 29, 2017.

Backgrounder (January 2, 2014)

(More is in the works).