DUHOK — We can say that the Kurdish Peshmerga Forces are leading the battle for Mosul, however, there are many risks for KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government], including in terms of a possible Arab-Kurdish clash in the aftermath of the Mosul operation, said Dr. Arzu Yilmaz, the Chair of the Department of Politics and Public Policy at the American University of Kurdistan.
She said in an interview with BasNews that both the KRG and the Iraqi government have highlighted on having an agreement, but in her view, Baghdad seems to be postponing any possible scenarios, and only conforms the agreement with the KRG, and no post-liberation plans have been made or announced regarding the future of Mosul.
"Even if we truly evaluate the current situation, we won't be able to predict what might happen in the post-liberation process," Dr. Yilmaz said.
She further pointed out that there is defiantly a strong threat not only to the security, but also the economy in the KRG, however, this threat is considered to be a “bill” which the KRG has to pay in order to take a step towards the main goal, the independence.
“There are many risks for the KRG, the operation in Mosul is testing both the security and the economy in the Kurdish Region. It is not an easy operation, and we do not expect it to end fast, that is why at this point the risks are more than the benefits,” she explained.
However, Dr. Yilmaz believes, the international community, as well as the regional actors support the unity of Iraq that is the reason why the KRG aims to build new, stronger relations with the Iraqi government. The Kurds want to gain their independence, to negotiate it with Iraq.
When asked about the Turkish presence in Iraq, Dr. Yilmaz, explained that we have to keep in mind that Turkey’s presence in northern Iraq goes back to the 1990s, when apart from the KDP- PUK conflict, Iran was also seen as a massive threat to the region. The only reason we question Turkey’s military presence in Iraq nowadays is because Iran is no longer seen as a threat, and there are new partners in the region, Yilmaz explained. However, Turkey did not become a partner of the US-led coalition against IS, she recalls, instead it focused on training Sunni soldiers against IS and other groups considered terrorist, in the Turkish military base in Bashiqa, as President Erdogan’s main focus is not just IS but also the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). These actions resulted into a series of disagreements between Turkey and Iraq, including huge demonstrations against Turkey's involvement in Iraq.
In regards to Syria, Dr. Yilmaz stated it can be observed that after Russia took the initiative in Aleppo, US stepped in Iraq, which highlights the tensions between Russia and the US.
"Of course, the timing of the operation in Mosul has a lot to do with the upcoming presidential election in the US,"she said.
“We still do not know what effect the Mosul operation will have on the Syrian conflict, or who will lead the operation for liberating Raqqa.”
"The operation in Mosul is expected to take a long time, and any comments may be over predictions, however it is important to point out that the liberation of Raqqa will show the post-IS picture of the Middle East, and who will be the main regional actor."
In addition, Dr. Yilmaz, pointed out that the politics in the region have changed dramatically; Iran is a partner of Iraq, whereas the KRG is in closer relations with Turkey, than with Iran. However, what is important for the KRG at the moment is to have good relations with Baghdad and to act in accordance with the agreement they have made.
"For now it is important that the KRG has a new partnership with Iraq and the US," Yilmaz added.