The recent attack by the Islamic State Organization (ISIS) on the village of Khedr Jija in Makhmur district following a similar targeting against the Peshmerga forces in Kifri town in Diyala governorate, reveals the seriousness of ISIS to continue being terrorist with a notable change in its form from violence that has become less spectacle to guerrilla warfare tactics. And this is an imitation of the previous violent jihadist schools launched by al-Qaeda in Iraq, particularly those in which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi excelled. In another words, there will be a return to terrorism origins, so to speak.
The repetition of the terrorist activities at an escalating pace indicates a security weakness that is affecting the work of the security apparatuses throughout Iraq, but the ISIS attacks made the Kurdish parties to exchange accusations and using tough tone which revealed the reality of division and the intensity of polarization, as the main dilemma lies in the failure to unify the Peshmerga forces since 2006, lack of central command, exacerbating competition based on monopolizing the military decision and related logistical positions. These issues weaken the Kurdish position in confronting terrorism, and also weaken both military and security coordination with Baghdad despite the fact that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRG) and the federal government of Baghdad reached a late formula to launch “preventive” offensive operations with the support of the US-led Global Coalition by using drones and others.
Meanwhile, the visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to Makhmur will not reduce fear that is growing in Kurdish areas that witnessed terrorist attacks and due to considerations that remind the Kurds of the previous confrontation with ISIS when the Kurds fought alone and when it was impossible to provide them with regional and international aid for a long time, and that was for reasons that seemed incomprehensible at the time.
Dealing with ISIS cells and its militants, which, according to the Ministry of Peshmerga’s estimations, are between 2,000 and 3,000 divided into sleeper cells in the cities and Kasbahs and others operating secretly, requires Kurds to overcome disputes inside the KRG between Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (YNK), and requires a serious cooperation between Baghdad and the KRG, in addition to achieving regional cooperation, which has not been fulfilled yet due to interests of regional states that are against the KRG’s interests of safety and stability. Additionally, depriving the Kurds of the advanced technologies and weapons, gives ISIS a space to act freely in remote areas especially the disputed ones.
It is noteworthy that escalating the attacks came after the fighters of Jundallah (People’s Resistance Movement of Iran (PRMI) joined ISIS. Jundallah, which was previously known as the “Abu Fatima al-Turki” group in Syria, was founded by Azerbaijani fighters in 2014 west of Aleppo. However, having this group in conflict with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly al-Nusra Front) may revive this issue that caused their expulsion from Syria to Iraq for being foreign fighters. This integration within the organizational body of ISIS is not an ordinary behavior, as it expresses a desire of some parties to revive ISIS and provide it with the required breath of life by providing it with veteran fighters in addition to finding a way to get rid of foreign fighters, who create obstacles against re-floating HTS. In any case, the Kurds – civilians and fighters – seem to be the one to bear the expenses.
Since we cannot predict an absolute end of ISIS, the organization, according to the first phase of its defeat, which was manifested by the fall of its caliphate and the killing of its caliph, has re-organized its terrorism. Even if it carries out the current terrorism under the aim of causing slight displacement for the Kurds, interrupting the Kurdish defense forces, and harming reputation of Kurdish fighter, the main goal may go beyond these “moral” titles to more abstract issues, such as the return to the declaration of the caliphate on ground.
Therefore, in order to counter the recent attacks by ISIS and its alliances after it was enhanced by a new batch of dangerous terrorists, it may be logical to resort to the method used by the Kurdish parties when ISIS first emerged and expanded, when all Kurdish parties forgot about their intra-disputes and stopped adhering to the regional precautions that require the Kurdish forces to remain foes and antagonistic, or it might be the existential danger that the Kurds felt at the time led them to find a new mobilization space that unified the Kurds against ISIS, consequently we saw the Peshmerga forces in Kobani, Barzani visited Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Makhmur, and PKK guerrillas deployed in Kirkuk and Sinjar, in addition to other positions that highlighted the importance of union and coordination.
Instead of exchanging accusations, blames, and holding responsibility, according to a chronic Kurdish custom, the Kurdish powers can come to the establishment of a broad-scale Kurdish council to fight terrorism that overcomes small issues, focuses on defeating ISIS, and enhances opportunities for sharing experiences and information. Thinking this way may be welcomed by the US-led Global Coalition, which is the most important partner of the Kurds in their war against terrorism.