Britain has 'moral duty to arm Kurds against Islamic State'

2014-08-15 08:02:00 | Al Muslim News
Britain has 'moral duty to arm Kurds against Islamic State'

 

Britain has a moral and historical obligation to arm the Kurds against the Islamic State jihadists now menacing Irbil, and failure to so would be certain to amplify the terror threat at home, the Kurdish security chief, Masrour Barzani, said on Tuesday. In an interview with the Guardian, Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan region security council, has implored the British public not to allow fatigue from more than 10 years of war to stop support for the Kurds in what is fast shaping up to be the biggest threat to Iraqi Kurdish society since the collapse of the Ottoman empire almost 100 years ago. He said: "In terms of drawing the lines [the regional borders], the UK had the greatest role in the creation of the modern Middle East. Now is not the time to say it is not our problem. I would like Britain to remember that we are not Helmand, or Basra, we are your friends." Mentioning the British-French agreement that enshrined the modern states of Lebanon and Syria, and led to the creation of Iraq's borders, he added: "For how long do the Kurds have to pay the price of the mistakes that were made? We are victims of Sykes Picot. For how long do we have to be held hostage, or to be vulnerable? "The international community needs to find a solution for the Kurds. Everybody underestimated the strength, the role and the agenda of Isis [or the Islamic State as the group now names itself] and is now regretting it. This is an organisation that does not recognise any legitimate border, or tolerate plurality. It rejects everything else beside itself." For the past 10 days Kurdish forces have been battling an advance by the Islamic State on the north that has quickly consumed areas dominated by minority groups on Iraq's Nineveh plains. The speed of the advance and strength of the weaponry used has stunned the autonomous enclave. In recent days the US has supplied weapons to outgunned Kurdish troops and launched airstrikes at jihadist positions. However, Barzani said that many more weapons were needed to ward off the threat from as many as 20,000 battle-hardened ideologues, who have turned their attention on the north after rampaging through western and central Iraq. Along the way, they looted all the Iraqi military arsenals north of Tikrit and waged war on everyone who refused to convert to their cause. "One of the reasons Isis is so rapidly growing is the defeat of the Iraqi and Syrian armies," he said. Five divisions were lost in 48 hours, he said, referring to the Iraqi rout from 10 June that altered the geopolitical landscape of the country. "Those weapons were supplied by the Americans and now they have been used against the Peshmurga in battle. Weapons supplied by a friend and now used by an enemy – and we don't have the same weapons to defend ourselves." The Home Office has acknowledged that as many as 500 British passport holders could be fighting with the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq, and is alarmed at the possibility of extremists hardened in Syria returning home to launch terror attacks. No British national has yet been suspected of plotting against the UK after spending time in Syria. However, more than a dozen men have been arrested after allegedly fighting in Syria with Isis, which is a prescribed terror group. Kurdish forces have not captured a British fighter, although Barzani said he thought large numbers of foreigners had been diverted from elsewhere in Iraq and from Syria to reinforce the frontline against the Kurds, which has been hit by regular US airstrikes since Friday afternoon. "That was a turning point for us. It was very important psychologically," he said. He said there was fresh hope for many of the remaining Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar in Iraq's north-west after being ousted from their nearby ancient homeland of Sinjar nine days ago. "What happened in Sinjar was nothing less than an act of genocide," he said. "Women were enslaved, men were killed. We have sent additional troops to try and secure a route. But it is 170 kilometres away from the mainland of the Kurds. Anything we do we have to do through the Arab areas, and they are often hostile." An Iraqi military helicopter crashed on Mount Sinjar on Tuesday afternoon killing the pilot and wounding 20 others, including Iraq's only Yazidi MP, Viyan Dakhil, who was on board for a rescue mission. At least 15,000 Yazidis remain stranded on the 45-60-mile long mountain. The Kurds had at first flagged the crisis crippling Iraq as a chance to further their long-held ambitions for sovereignty. However, moves towards holding a referendum on the issue have been shelved as Isis has focused its attentions on the north. The Kurds were not given a sovereign homeland by the colonial powers that carved up the region after the first world war and have been battling ever since to establish one on land that is now northern Iraq, western Iran, eastern Syria and southern Turkey. "We can't be a protectorate forever," Barzani said. "We need to shape our own destiny – and we need help to do it.".

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