I have finally been able to contact several friends in Iraq. One is a retired military officer who actually married a Kurdish lady and now works for the Kurdish government. Some of the other friends are Shia living in the Sunni Triangle. I will relate their thoughts and experiences here as they happen.
Recently here at FA, some of our leftist commenters have supported the current administration’s failure to sign a Status of Forces agreement, Biden’s end all solution of dividing Iraq into 3 parts and the condemnation of the previous administration’s removing Saddam from power.
First, here is briefly what has happened to date. Six divisions of the Iraqi Army collapsed and abandoned their posts and equipment across the north in the face of ISIS . The ISIS force is comprised of former Ba’athists (From Syria and Saddam’s Party) and some of the Sunni tribal militias. The current government run by Maliki has continued to extract pay back from the Saddam’s Sunnis by diminishing their role in the new Iraq government. The increase in violence since US forces left is those Sunni activists using terrorism to force the Shia government run by Maliki into provide them some rightful concessions. The Kurds participated in the Iraqi government, but have maintained a high level of autonomy.
After the Arabs ran, the Kurds moved in and filled those voids left by the Iraqi Army across the disputed territories that are mostly Kurdish to include Kirkuk and other places. The Kurds are now defending a 1,050 km frontier opposite of ISIS – or IS – as they are now called. They are in daily combat operations in some places with IS, especially south and west of Kirkuk and in some locations west of Mosul. The Kurdish frontier with the rest of Iraq is only 15 km wide and has no roads. So the Kurdish area of Iraq is effectively cut off from the south and military and supply support.
Maliki continues to withhold financial and other from the KRG (since the start of the year) and has cut off cargo flights to the Kurdish cities. He is still trying to block Kurdish oil sales that further prevents the Kurds from funding the defense of Iraq. As a result of the Maliki lack of support for Kurdish Iraq, the Kurds are scheduling a referendum in the disputed territories to get them resolved and are scheduling a referendum for independence. Right now, the Kurds are the only viable combat force in Iraq and they lack the sophisticated equipment the US allocated to the Iraqi Government.
My Shia Friends live in villages in the south-east part of the Sunni Triangle. Many of their rural villages are interspaced with Sunni villages. (Villages in Iraq are primarily family orientated within a tribe.) They get along with their Sunni neighbors, but are continuously threatened by radical Sunnis from the Western Iraqi tribes. In 2007, I received a call from one Sheikh who had warning from his Sunni neighbors that a group of radical Sunnis from Ramadi were going to attack his village that evening. These are farmers with little or no experience in war fighting. By tradition, the Sheikh lives in a walled compound. I recommended that he gather his extended family (most of the village) into his compound and deploy the men on the roof tops of his buildings. He did and successfully fended off the attack.
This new threat from ISIS has actually surrounded them. Because they are rural and the ISIS concentration is to capture significant towns and cities to create media frenzy, they have not been bothered too much. They do risk their lives when they must go to Baghdad for supplies or to deliver their farm products.
Every politician who wants the different entities in Iraq to determine their own future and boundaries ignore centuries of history. It is not about Sunni vs Shia or Kurds vs Arabs. The Kurds are Sunni, but not Sunni Arabs. Some of the Sunnis use to be Shia. Past rulers moved various tribes all over Iraq to make population control more manageable. Their current homes are now their homes. The Kurds are a fierce people who will never forget their roots. They want their tribal lands back. (See map of the proposed Kurdistan. Proposed by Kurds.) Most of the known oil reserves are in Shia and Kurdish areas. When someone like VP Biden makes a statement to split Iraq into 3 parts, they are ignorant of the history of the area and the situation on the ground.
When we went into Iraq in 2003, US and Coalition troops were welcomed as liberators by the Shia and the Kurds. General Petraeus was successful in bringing the Sunni tribes on board. A lack of experience by a community organizer successfully destroyed a fragile government through neglect and for political gain. Now, Iraq is going to be the proving and training ground for generations of terrorists.