Kurdish forces with U.S.-backed air strikes have driven Islamic State fighters out of the city of Sinjar, home to the Yazidi minority group. However, the victory also exacerbates tensions between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central Iraqi government
The Iraqi government was already wary of the U.S. intervention in Iraq as it did not happen until the Kurdish capital of Erbil was threatened and the Islamic State was committing atrocities against the Yazidi minority, even though IS was capturing more and more other areas in Iraq. Back in June of 2014 as well the Kurds had taken advantage of the IS state offensive to seize the city of Kirkuk and the oil rich area surrounding it to keep it from falling into the hands of the Islamic State. They have made it clear they intended to keep the city as part of Iraqi Kurdistan.During the capture of Sinjar, Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Worker's Party or PKK were active, a group listed as a terrorist organization both by Turkey and the U.S. However, they have played a key role in battling the Islamic State both in Syria and in Iraq. After the capture Iraqi Kurdistan president, Massoud Barzani at a press conference referred to the city as part of Kurdistan and made it clear the city would be incorporated into the Kurdish area. Before being recaptured, Sinjar was nominally under the control of the central government in Baghdad. Barzani did not even mention the role of the rival PKK in retaking the city. US Special Forces were also involved in the Sinjar operation.This continued support for the Kurds by the United States is alienating the Baghdad government from the US and encouraging it to forge closer links both with Iran but also Russia. Over the objection of US officials, Iraq established a joint intelligence command center in Baghdad with the Iranian and Syrian governments. Just last Friday, a delegation of Iraqi legislators visited Moscow to talk about more Russian involvement in Iraq.Ayhem Kamel, director for the Middle East and North Africa of the Eurasia group said:Ranj Alaaldin an expert on Kurdish affairs claimed:The US is further stressing relations with Baghdad by attempts to directly arm the Kurds counter to an agreement that the arms will go through Baghdad. Recently, a Canadian transport plane was held by Iraqi authorities for several days at Baghdad airport. Spokesperson for the Canadian Department of National Defense, Dominique Tessier, said that the plane was held due to an issue with the customs documentation of its cargo. Hakien al-Zameli, head of the Iraqi parliament security and defence commission, put it a bit differently:
“The Sinjar operation will remind the key decision makers in Baghdad that the U.S. has a broader sense of strategic cooperation with the Kurds than with Baghdad.The quick gains here against ISIS, are going to undermine the broader picture of the unity of Iraq.”Relations have become so tense between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government that in the disputed city of Tuz Khurmoto near Kirkuk, Shiite militias loyal to Baghdad have been fighting with Kurdish peshmerga forces, with several people killed. Longstanding disputes about how to divide oil revenues have not been settled. Both governments are dependent upon oil revenues to fund their activities.
“I think Sinjar adds momentum not just to the U.S. campaign against ISIS, but also U.S.-Kurdish cooperation, which builds on U.S. support for Kurdish forces in Syria. That will no doubt alarm Baghdad, Turkey, as well as the Iranians and Russians, both of which are competing with the U.S. to bring the Kurds within their orbit of influence.”
“The inspection committee in Baghdad International Airport has found a huge number of rifles equipped with silencers, as well as light and mid-sized weapons.The US ambassador to Baghdad has tried to send the weapons to the Iraqi Kurdistan region, and the government should investigate this and arrest the perpetrators,”The plane eventually returned to Kuwait.