Kurdistan and national military service, fostering national identity and strengthening security – Part 2
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Kurdistan and national military service, fostering national identity and strengthening security – Part 2

Kurdistan is geographically in a region where several regional actors are competing for regional hegemony. Turkey and Iran have, on numerous occasions, displayed their appetite for political, economic and military control in the Middle East region. Their foreign policy almost definitely includes pressure and dominance over the Kurdistan region. The past three decades have shown that the Kurdistan region can govern itself to a measurable degree. Furthermore, it has developed such foreign relations policy that will not completely surrender to the wishes of these competing powers. This level of development is an alarming reality for both Turkey and Iran.  Both Iran and Turkey continue to maintain bilateral relations with the KRG, in no small extent because of financial gains. Despite these relations, they have never been satisfied with any advancement that Kurdistan has achieved.  The possibility of nation-state building policies of political leaders in Kurdistan is perceived as a clear threat to their national security.

Kurdistan enjoys the support of the US and European allies for the protection of the political entity of Kurdistan as a federal region of Iraq.  The Iraqi constitution of 2005 also formally recognizes the federal region of Kurdistan; however, all the previous administrations in Baghdad have failed to honor the articles of the constitution concerning Kurdistan. They have all in different forms adopted policies to punish the region through budgetary cuts or even military intervention. 

The military or as known in Kurdistan, Peshmerga forces have been one of the most successful components of keeping many of the threats against Kurdistan at bay. However, it would be very premature to compare the capabilities of Kurdistan forces against that of the regional powers, like Turkey, Iran or even the Iraqi army with weapons and Armory. Despite the incomparable size of troops and military technology; there is an essential element in favor of the Peshmerga forces. It is their ideology that comes from the days of guerrilla warfare in the mountains of Kurdistan.  Small numbered Peshmerga forces fought and prevailed against the brutal Iraqi army of Saddam Hussain. The mentality and ideology that no enemy strong enough can invade Kurdistan without a very high cost is a symbolic slogan of the Peshmerga forces (Yan Kurdistan Yan Naman).  The charismatic leadership of President Masoud Barzani manifested this very same ideology into the minds of the Peshmerga forces fighting ISIS through his direct supervision of military operations. 

There is a sense of pride amongst the Kurdish population when talking about past service as "peshmargayati", which is valued as true Kurdayati, these terminologies are clearly seen as part of the older generations Kurdish national identity.  Many academic political and security researches and many thinkers and authors have associated military service with the fostering of national identity and sense of patriotism amongst citizens in countries around the world. There is a fundamental and significant need for academic debate in Kurdistan. On ways to enhance and establish relevant programs that can help foster Kurdish national identity for the younger and future generations. A good starting point can be the evaluation of voluntary or mandatory military service for the youths of Kurdistan. 

Today the younger community in Kurdistan are finding themselves at a struggle with political elites and the political parties in the region. Kurdish identity is questioned in many ways, causing confusion and detachment between the youths and the government. This makes the necessities of such programs as military service greater in Kurdistan. This provides the opportunity and incentive for the younger generation, in accepting their responsibility of serving their motherland.  This will aid in creating the opportunity of a better life and work availability, both in the public and private sector after completing their military service. Aiming to   re-establishing the symbolic attachment to peshmargayati as in the days of the mountains on one hand, while working on building a true Kurdish national identity based on the patriotism of military service, equality, anti-corruption and Kurdish culture and heritage. 

A Kurdish universal Peshmerga force that will maintain loyalty to the protection of the nation above all other believes. Having a dynamic cadet training program will also serve as a recruitment pool for the Peshmerga forces.  In time this will aid to fully unify the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerga in the KRG. Kurdistan region must ensure a level of military readiness and an appropriate military doctrine that will make any foreign aggressor think twice before any military action.  With a historical peshmargayati identity of the Kurds, such capabilities are achievable. This level of community military awareness and readiness will, above all other aspects ensure the protection of the Kurdish political entity and future nation state-building.