Is my friend the enemy of my enemy?
In the Middle East the situation is quite confused, with night bombing on Damascus and humanitarian refugees migrating towards Europe. Obama, a few weeks after the creation of his Coalition, is at stake, trying to receive a sort of International legitimization of the attacks he had approved from one hand, and looking for new allies from the other. In this scenario, the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS or ISIL), goes on, defeating cities and increasing the number of its soldiers, facing the US and the Coalition. The western dilemma is towards a population which hides elements of the 90s terrorism, the Kurds. They fight against IS but in the past some Kurds were considered to be enemy of the European Union. Is it so possible to trust the Kurds?
When dealing with IS borders, is important to consider whether they are real (or now under control of al-Baghdadi) or ambitious (or the future project of al-Baghdadi). In the first case the IS extends its borders from Aleppo to the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, but in the second case there is a clear recall to the Omayyadi borders, from Turkey to the South of Spain, passing through North of Africa. Al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS or Islamic Caliphate, is struggling against the populations in these areas to gain power and field, with only small resistance of the local authorities, which led the Western democracies, and principally the American president Obama, to think that this is a threat to be worried about.
The biggest local enemy in Middle East region is represented by the Kurds, an ethnic group of 35/40 million of people who live in different areas of the region, such as Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the North of Middle East. Kurds share the same beliefs, culture, religions and languages and have tried, in the last forty years and more, to found their own nation in the land where they live. In an era where the principle of cuius regio eius religio is not valid anymore, Kurds are struggling (even with arguable methods), for a land where borders ratifies their ethnicity. Even if they did found some recognition at an international level, such as with the Kurd parties in Turkey and Iraq, they remain an ethnic group without a national unity. It is important to note that the PKK, the Kurd Labor Party, is still considered by the US and UE a terrorist organization due to its past guerrilla warfare in Turkey.
Among the Kurds in Middle East, who is really fighting against IS are the peshmerga, Kurds in the north of Syria and Iraq, who wants to free their land from al-Baghdadi’s disciples. Although the peshmerga are enemies of the IS, they are in this moment, the best friend of Obama’s Coalition. The EU has approved by single states, to give weapons and supplies to peshmerga to fight against the Caliphate, but at the same time is wondering whether this could be a solution or not, or, paraphrasing the main topics of the most important European think tanks, “can we trust them, if less than five years ago we were fighting against some of them? Will it be another Gulf Operation?”. Far from being like the Iraqi Freedom, Kurds are now considered to be a part of the solution for this problem, and this statement is enough. Even if they were enemy, they fight against al-Baghdadi, so they are now friend. For this battle.
The resolution of the peshmerga is strong, and their willingness to defeat the Caliphate is unquestionable, but what cares their Amphitryonis is their ability in battle. They were civilians who learnt to embrace weapons to look for their cities so use tactics like guerrilla and are quite decent fighting in the mountains with discreet success, but the history teach that it is not possible to use those tactics in the plans of the North of Iraq. They are not an army, but people with a lot of interest in fighting to defend their villages. As Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy pointed out, they need to be trained for a long time as a real regular army. This is necessary to fight against the IS with some opportunities.
Another basic need for Obama, is the legitimization at an International level. With his latest declaration of underextimation of the ISIL, he is trying to receive the permission to intervene of the UN and NATO but, as the Swiss President Burkhalter notes, Obama is still not respecting the International Law of the non-interference in Domestic Affairs of other Nations.
By the end, it is impossible to foresee what will happen in Middle East and for Kurds, but we can only suppose a reasoning from the data we have from the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey. Kurds are looking for a land, and with the progresses of the Islamic State it is now impossible for the Baghdad Government to face a rebellion finalized to a proclamation of independence of the Kurds in the Northern province. Also Turkey is showing an opening towards Kurds, from political but also financial side, since they have signed an agreement about the possibility for Turkish oil pipes to cross the Iraqi Kurdistan. Whether it is possible or not to trust Kurds it is early to say, but what will happen is that they will be rewarded at some point, with more international recognition or, maybe, with their promised land.