Kurds plan to keep the areas in Iraq they have taken from ISIL

In the buildup to a long-awaited offensive on the city of Mosul, Kurdish forces are seizing new territory in northern Iraq that they say will become part of their autonomous region. The moves are further straining relations between the Kurds and the Baghdad government and Shiite militias, all ostensibly allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Just east of Mosul, Kurdish engineering teams on a recent day were laying down a 3-meter wide, 20-kilometer long trench and 2-meter high berms, marking the new front line after recapturing the village of Qarqashah and neighboring hamlets from IS earlier this month.

The new de facto borders established by the Kurdish fighters, known as peshmerga, raise the potential for conflict between Iraq's Kurds and Arabs after any eventual defeat of IS — just as in neighboring Syria, where Kurds have also dramatically expanded their zone of control.

"All the areas that have been liberated by the peshmerga forces, our (Kurdish) forces will stay there," said Falah Mustafa, the head of the Iraqi Kurdish region's foreign relations department, echoing statements by numerous officials.

Largely with the help of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, Kurdish forces have taken territory equivalent to around 50 percent of the size of their recognized autonomous zone.

Their first gain came just days after IS militants took Mosul in the summer of 2014 and stormed down into central Iraq as the military collapsed. Kurdish forces seized the city of Kirkuk, which they have long claimed as their own.

Ostensibly, the move was to protect the city from IS, but Kurdish President Massoud Barzani quickly said the Kurds would keep it. From there, they continued pushing IS out, capturing much of the surrounding province.

Since then, they have taken further territory in the nearby Ninevah province, where Mosul is located, with "shaping operations" ahead of an expected assault on the city. Much of it is territory with a large Kurdish community that the regional government has claimed for years — but not all, meaning the grabs are bringing in populations where some are wary of Kurdish domination.

Similarly, in neighboring Syria, long-oppressed Kurds have used the chaos of the civil war and fight against IS to carve out a zone of control across the country's north.

The new clout of the main Syrian Kurdish fighting force, known as the YPG, has led to tensions with almost every player on the ground there, including Sunni Arab rebels and government forces. Turkey this week launched a major cross-border offensive, aimed mainly at limiting Kurdish expansion.
There is more.

 The Kurds' ambition is to control areas where Kurds are the dominant ethnic group.  This is probably the real reason Turkey is finally moving against ISIL in Syria.  Erdogan clearly fears an independent Kurdish state more than he does a genocidal Islamist one.  That the US is going along with this is a betrayal of the only decent ally it has in Syria.  From the Green Revolution in Iran to this latest move in Syria, the Obama administration seems to side with the bad guys.


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