“Most of the ISIS elements that managed to flee after their defeat by the Syrian Democratic Forces have moved towards Middle Iraq and occupied areas in Rojava. Turkey has started integrating those in groups of affiliated gangs, not any different from ISIS, and assigned them serious responsibilities,” writes Fehim Işık for Yeni Özgür Politika.
There is a significant increase in Islamic State [ISIS] attacks in Southern Kurdistan [Iraqi Kurdistan] in recent weeks. More than 20 peshmergas and civilians have been killed in attacks within the last couple of days.
After killing peshmergas and civilians in its attack in the district of Makhmur, ISIS ambushed a reinforcement unit and more peshmergas were killed.
The attacks take place in Kirkuk and around it. Some villages near the city of Kirkuk have been targeted too. There are rumours that ISIS has cells active in the city centre and that they may start staging a new wave of attacks.
Setting aside whether they can actually do it or not, just the fact alone that they can even consider doing it is important enough. One can see a lot of clues when one looks at what happened after ISIS had been defeated by the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] and eventually lost its control over the territory.
ISIS went underground in Iraq and Syria following its defeat in Baghuz and started re-organising.
They established their bases mostly in the Sunni regions of central Iraq. They also set themselves up in areas that are under Turkish occupation, areas they concluded were secure havens for them.
The camps under the control of the Rojava Autonomous Administration [Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria] deserve a closer look as well, where ISIS has somehow managed to survive.
The rise of ISIS in central Iraq is fuelled by the de-Sunnification policy which could not be prevented up till this day since 2003. This policy is a factor in the growth of the social base for ISIS.
Turkey plays a big role in the affairs of these things. After 2003 it developed close relations with the Sunnis beside the Turkmens. The relations with the Turkmens were openly maintained through Ankara. Relations with the Sunni tribes and Saddam remains, on the other hand, have been developed through Turkey’s Mosul Consulate.
Turkey started supporting and providing weapons, supplies and training for various movements through means of companies like ENKA [one of the largest Turkish construction companies], controlled by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency MİT; movements it could use in Iraq and Libya. This situation has become even more visible after the 2011 crisis in Syria.
ISIS has started re-organising as a network of cells after the defeat in Baghuz, using the advantages presented by Iraq’s Sunni communities.
Its relations with Turkey did not end during this period as some would think. This is due to the fact that there is a remarkable harmony between ISIS and the mentality of the Muslim-Brothers-inclined AKP [the Justice and Development Party]
We can see this harmony with the Muslim Brothers mentality most strikingly in the occupied areas in Rojava.
Most of the ISIS elements that managed to flee after their defeat by the Syrian Democratic Forces have moved towards central Iraq and occupied areas in Rojava.
Turkey has started integrating those in groups of affiliated gangs, no different from ISIS, and assigned them serious responsibilities.
Another factor is the camps under the control of the Rojava Autonomous Administration. The Administration was able to place senior ISIS fighters charged with serious crimes in secure prisons. They had to place the rest in large camps.
Taking advantage of the lack of security, thousands of ISIS members and their families managed to escape from those camps and settled in areas under Turkish occupation. The ones that stayed in the camps have re-organised themselves and started waiting for the day they would launch a counter attack.
Turkey’s support for such elements is evident. The efforts by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency to access these camps and to smuggle people out for recruitment is common knowledge.
Unfortunately the capabilities of the Rojava Autonomous Administration have not sufficed to prevent these risks. ISIS and Turkey benefited from the lack of sufficient support from the international coalition forces to keep the ISIS members under security and to put them in trial, and from the incapabilities of the Autonomous Administration.
ISIS used this to its own advantage and launched a new attack on the weakest link of the chain. This time, though, the attack has not been carried out by hordes but by small groups.
It’s not surprising in this context that the attacks have started in Southern Kurdistan, targeting areas around Kirkuk.
First of all, they observe that the people in Southern Kurdistan do not have confidence in the political authority.
Secondly, they’re aware of the difficulties faced by the political authority who’s in close relations with Turkey and acting like an administrative unit of Turkey.
Besides, they also project that Turkey would prefer a further weakening of the Southern Kurdistan administration so that it would be even more dependent on Turkey.
It seems they decided that it would be more effective if they launched their first attacks against the Kurds.
So, isn’t there a solution? Of course there is. But we have got to keep in mind that it’s the political authority in Southern Kurdistan who should take the first step, no matter how Turkey, ISIS and their supporters may react.
It’s the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who have got to see, before anyone else, that these attacks, so encouraging for ISIS, are the consequence of their own weaknesses.
As long as they hold their power over the prosperity of the people the crisis will escalate and those who are lurking waiting to ambush will turn the crisis into their advantage. It’s that simple.