For Kurdish Fighters, Aiding Baghdad Not an Easy Choice

Secessionist Ambitions Have Many Hoping to Sit the Fight Out

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) carves up much of Iraq and the Shi’ite government moves to muster what defense it can of their capital of Baghdad, the wild card remains the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and their Peshmerga paramilitary.

Though the Maliki government seemed to assume Peshmerga aid was imminent, it’s not any easy choice for many, in no small part because Maliki’s reign has fueled tensions between the central government and the KRG.

Even beyond that, many in the KRG have made no bones about their ambition to eventually secede and declare independence from Iraq, and the ISIS war seems to be the most ideal pretext imaginable for that.

The Peshmerga has seized parts of Iraq that have fallen out of central government hands, which could either be their “defense” of Iraq or a hasty landgrab on their way out the door. The faction seems interested in making which unclear though.

The surprising effectiveness of ISIS may also play a role in the Peshmerga being reluctant to go on the offensive against them, as fighters lost in trying to save central government territory could well be needed to defend the KRG’s own lands from ISIS, which now spans much of their border.

Ultimately, the KRG’s decision may be made for them if ISIS makes a serious push against their territory, but in the interim, it seems likely that they will remain largely on the sidelines, shoring up their own defenses, and preparing for a post-Iraq future that could be fast approaching.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of