Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Kurdistan, Yezidis, and the Strange Consensus: A Report from an Iraq Correspondent

 

I received this report from a correspondent who asked for anonymity. “Given Ricochet’s educated readership,” he wrote, “perhaps they might enjoy this more detailed perspective” on Kurdistan and the KRG’s lobbyists in the West. I thought it was fascinating. If you have questions about it, I’ll be happy to post his replies.

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There are few things that unite the Left and Right in America, least of all when it comes to foreign policy. But in the wake of the Islamic State’s rampage in the summer of 2014, a strange and virtually unquestioned consensus was accepted across the political spectrum. The narrative went something like this: The Iraqi Army, after over a decade of US training and investment, ran at the first sight of ISIS and abandoned billions of dollars of military hardware to the terror group. The Kurdish Peshmerga (“those who face death”) meanwhile held their ground bravely and shielded their vulnerable religious minorities from the Islamic State’s onslaught. Unlike the sectarian Iraqis, the religiously pluralistic Kurds defend Muslims, Christians, and Yezidis alike and deserve our full-throated backing. At last, the long-sought “local boots on the ground!”

Speaking glowingly of Peshmerga performance against ISIS, National Review’s David French wrote:

Arming the Kurds isn’t sufficient to defeat ISIS, but it is necessary. The Kurds have proven time and again that they’ll fight, while other “allies” cut and run — leaving their equipment behind. (emphasis added)

And the Huffington Post agreed:

The only armed forces [Peshmerga] that, so far, have stood up to the beheaders, the only ones capable of holding a front a thousand kilometers long, the only ones that have not yielded an inch of ground (and have even retaken essential strategic positions near Sinjar and above the Mosul dam)” (emphasis added)

Anyone who has spent a modicum of time speaking with the displaced Yezidis in Iraqi Kurdistan knows these assessments are not only spectacularly false, but indeed a slap in the face to the victims of the horrendous genocide carried out by the Islamic State since 2014. What’s most frustrating is that the truth of the situation is readily available to journalists and policy makers. However, a combination of herd mentality in the press, wishful thinking, and a brilliant PR effort by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) all contribute to obfuscating the reality of the situation.

Iraq’s Disaster and Kurdistan’s Opportunity

 Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to a combined jihadist offensive on June 10, 2014. The total collapse of the Iraqi garrison was owed in large part to a combination of staggering incompetence and likely infiltration by jihadists. With then Prime Minister Maliki’s government in total disarray, the KRG sensed an opportunity and seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk virtually unopposed. In a single stroke, the Kurds preempted any possible move against the city by ISIS and all but put an end to the notion of Kirkuk being a “disputed territory” with the central government forever. Far from worried about the threat posed by the jihadists, KRG officials were ecstatic at Baghdad’s misfortunes: “ISIL gave us in two weeks what Maliki couldn’t give us in eight years”

The Islamic State’s routing of Iraqi forces in June proved advantageous in other ways for the Kurds. (It should be remembered that there were not yet open hostilities between the KRG and ISIS at this time) With Mosul firmly in jihadist hands, the remnants of the Iraqi security forces conducted a chaotic fighting retreat west towards Tel Afar and Sinjar, where Peshmerga units confiscated Iraqi heavy weapons as a condition of their retreating into KRG-controlled territory. The Kurds thus garnered a windfall of heavy weaponry and vehicles from the defeated Iraqis. Allegedly, several Iraqi officers were forced to don their traditional Arab dress and publicly admonished and humiliated by KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) officials for their cowardice and flight. If this apocryphal story is true, it is rich with irony considering the events that would soon follow.

The Looming Catastrophe

Tel Afar fell a week later and by July, ISIS all but surrounded the Sinjar district on three sides. Sinjar’s residents, many of them Yezidis, received this unwelcome news with a sense of foreboding. Nevertheless, the KRG refused to allow them to leave. As the Daily Beast reported:

Despite the danger and fear of attack, locals consistently were discouraged from leaving Sinjar by local KDP and Kurdish government officials who reassured civilians that the Peshmerga would keep them safe.

A local KDP official…says that higher-ups in the party told representatives to keep people calm, and that if people in their areas of coverage left their salaries would be cut.

Sarbast Baiperi, head of the KDP’s Branch 17 in Sinjar, could be seen in KDP media and on Facebook posing with various weapons and claiming that “until the last drop of blood we will defend Sinjar.”

In spite of the dire situation and the uncertainty about the Islamic State’s next move, Baiperi’s braggadocio might not have seemed all that unfounded. The district after all was a defensive planner’s dream, being the location of Mt. Sinjar, an over 70km mountain range protruding from desert. Additionally, the KRG forces in the district were bolstered by the addition of many heavy weapons and vehicles looted from the Iraqi Army. Even in the event of an ISIS assault, the Kurdish troop presence and favorable geography at the very least meant a fighting retreat could be conducted while the civilians were evacuated.

Inexplicably (or explicably depending on one’s perspective), KDP authorities spent the month of July busily disarming Yezidis in Sinjar and Assyrian Christians in the Nineveh Plains, ostensibly to consolidate weapons for the collective defense. From Assyrian activist Max Joseph:

Notices were distributed to the Assyrians of the Nineveh Plains by the KRG demanding full disarmament and relinquishing of weapons in July 2014, threatening severe punishment to anyone who did not cooperate.

Assyrian Christians in Qaraqosh would be forced to flee in mid-August as the Peshmerga abandoned their fighting positions in the city. See Joseph’s above article and The New York Times for more details on the Christians’ plight.

Yezidis Abandoned: The Fall of Sinjar 

On August 3, Yezidis in the villages south of Mt. Sinjar, residents awoke to the sounds of mortars and machine guns. The dreaded ISIS invasion had begun. Even more devastating though was the fact that the Peshmerga had withdrawn in the hours before the attack without informing the residents. From Daily Beast again:

In the early morning of August 3, Yezidi men, not Peshmerga, stood and fought thinking that the Kurdish forces would soon join the battle. When they realized that wasn’t going to happen, many tried to escape over the mountain.

Word quickly spread that Sinjar was defenseless and ISIS was already in the southern villages. What followed was a chaotic flight of residents up the foothills of Mt. Sinjar, many with nothing more than the clothes on their back in the scorching August heat.

And of their fearless leader who had pledged protection?

Baiperi was one of the first to flee Sinjar…He rolled out of town the night before the attack had even started because he heard IS was on its way to the outlying villages…And not only did he flee, but he fled in a single vehicle, telling no one but his guards.

From Max Joseph again:

Peshmerga, eager to flee first ahead of Yezidi civilians, refused requests to stay and protect Yezidis or at least leave them their weapons. They even reassured them that they should return to their homes where they will be defended. Some Peshmerga even started firing on Yezidis when their protestations grew forceful, killing some, in order to clear the way for their convoy of vehicles to pass unhindered.

By the time many bewildered residents were even aware of the Peshmerga’s withdrawal, ISIS had already occupied their villages. In the ensuing two weeks after the Islamic State’s envelopment of Mt. Sinjar, the UN estimated upwards of 5,500 Yezidis were massacred with approximately 6,836 enslaved, of which the majority were women. Hundreds more perished from dehydration, starvation, and exhaustion while trying to flee up the mountain for sanctuary.

With the massacres on the plains ongoing, another humanitarian crisis was unfolding on the mountain itself, where an estimated 50,000 Yezidis were now encircled by the Islamic State. The Peshmerga were nowhere to be seen, but this did not mean there was no fighting. Occurring simultaneously with the KRG’s withdrawal was the arrival of soldiers from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) from across the Syrian border. The PKK (a designated terror group by the US) linked up with small bands of Yezidi fighters in a desperate attempt to prevent ISIS from ascending the mountain. The addition of these battle-hardened and fanatical fighters was enough to tip the scales in the defenders’ favor.

At about the same time as the first airstrikes by the US on August 8th, the PKK and its affiliates succeeded in opening a narrow corridor from Mt. Sinjar to the Syrian border through which over 35,000 Yezidis escaped on foot. “If it wasn’t for the Kurdish fighters [PKK], we would have died up there” said a rescued Yezidi. The withdrawal of the Peshmerga is all the more tragic considering that the badly outmanned and outgunned Yazdis and PKK were able to stave off the complete conquest of the mountain.

In December of 2014, the Peshmerga returned and succeeded in liberating the northern side of the mountain and lifting the four-month siege.

Shattered Trust

The eviction of ISIS from the north side of the mountain and the subsequent liberation of Sinjar city to the south in November 2015 has had little effect on repairing the damage done by the Peshmerga’s initial withdrawal. Whatever trust existed between the Yezidis and KRG before 2014 is irrevocably broken, and indeed the distrust is only exacerbated by the continuing actions of the government.

Well before the genocide, Yezidis and other Iraqi minorities complained of an increasingly aggressive “Kurdification” program not dissimilar from Saddam’s “Arabization” schemes. As Human Rights Watch reported in 2009,

In a move that disturbingly echoes the “nationality correction” policy of the former Baathist government, minority groups have reported that their members were forced to not identify themselves as a member of a minority community (the two registration options given are Kurd or Arab), in order to get access to education or healthcare

The report concluded “The goal of these tactics is to push Shabak and Yezidi communities to identify as ethnic Kurds.”

To this day, the KRG insists on always referring to Yezidis as “Yezidi-Kurds” and still shamelessly calls the Islamic State killings the “Shingal Genocide,” as if the massacres and mass rapes were motivated by geography and the Yezidi religion merely incidental. (The district is called Shingal in Kurdish and Sinjar in Arabic)

In talking to hundreds of Yezidis, I have met very few who self-identified as Kurdish. (And contrary to what is often reported, not all Yezidis are native Kurdish speakers. The Yezidis in Bashiqa and Bahzani northeast of Mosul speak Arabic as their mother tongue.) Many Yezidis who retain a Kurdish identity are strident PKK supporters and favor the group’s more pan-Kurdish ideology over the nationalism of the KRG. One man I spoke to gave what has become a common refrain: “Before the genocide, a lot of us identified as Kurds. We waved the Kurdish flag and the KDP flag. But after they abandoned us, never again. Now we’re just Yezidis. They can go to hell.”

The true motives of the KRG’s withdrawal from Sinjar will probably never be known. The government pledged a full investigation following the attack, but to this day nothing has materialized; no release of findings, no courts martials. Unsurprisingly, the betrayal has given rise to endless conspiracy theories. The preemptive disarming of the population, the orderly nature of the withdrawal right before the attack, and the lack of warning given to residents suggest to many a secret arrangement made between the KRG and ISIS. Might the Kurds have abandoned their unwanted minority in the hopes of returning to a much more demographically favorable environment after ISIS massacred the population? Or perhaps, as others suggest, the Yezidis were sacrificed in order to engender sympathy in the West and shame the US into backing the KRG in its long battle for independence? Or is staggering incompetence and cowardice enough to explain it? The lack of transparency in the government has only fueled speculation.

Whatever the truth, there is no explanation that makes the Kurdish government look anything short of criminally negligent. In fact, it’s impossible to say the KRG has not benefitted from the disaster. World opinion is virtually unanimous in its appreciation for the vaunted Peshmerga soldiers. Iraqi Kurdistan now counts on the backing of US Special Forces and air power (all beginning in the wake of the genocide) to liberate ISIS territory once belonging to Baghdad. And you shouldn’t expect them to ever give up these newly acquired territories. Indeed, ISIS has given the KRG more than Maliki ever could.

The Double Victims

The Yezidis claim the latest genocide as the 74th committed against the community in thousands of years, most of which occurred under the Ottomans. The UN report linked above estimates over 3,200 Yezidis remain under Islamic State captivity. Tens of thousands or more have fled from Iraq while hundreds of thousands remain in ramshackle camps scattered around Iraqi Kurdistan.

Although the north side of Sinjar has been liberated for nearly two years, the return of IDPs has come at a glacial pace, albeit not for the reasons one might expect. The KDP is paranoid about Yezidis returning to Sinjar for [rightfully] fearing the party will lose political influence. After abandoning them to genocide, President Barzani and his party know the restless Yezidis will no longer be a reliable constituency in Sinjar. So the government has repeatedly dragged its feet in allowing a mass return of IDPs. Much easier to control desperate residents in the camps than in the wilds of Mt. Sinjar.

A significant number of Yezidis are sympathetic to the PKK since its dramatic rescue of tens of thousands on Mt. Sinjar. In the ensuing two years, this has caused a further split in what is generally a conservative community. Knowing its radical ideology would be off-putting to Yezidis, the PKK has adroitly outsourced its role in the district to its all-Yezidi affiliate known as the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS). While many Yezidis embrace the PKK/YBS enthusiastically, others are suspicious of what is perceived as another Kurdish project to dominate Sinjar. Complicating matters further, a number of independent and vaguely nationalist factions have sprung up, creating what many Yezidis fear is a tinderbox waiting to be lit after ISIS is gone.

President Barzani, in his typical boorish manner, has shown no interest in compromising on the KRG’s claim to the district. On the marking of Sinjar city’s liberation, he proclaimed, “We do not accept any other flag flying over Sinjar.” And he dismissed the notion that the PKK in any way had participated in the liberation. (A Peshmerga fighter in Sinjar informed me this was nonsense and that the PKK had more or less liberated the city themselves while the KDP just took the credit afterwards. To be sure, these sorts of claims are difficult to parse especially when coming from a rival political party as in this case)

Not to be outdone by himself, President Barzani met with several hundred Yezidi Peshmerga fighters in May 2016 where he demanded that the Yezidis take up arms and drive the PKK out of Sinjar. The soldiers present vocally objected to what would in effect be a Yezidi civil war, stating that they could never fight against the group responsible for saving thousands of their co-religionists. Whatever his intent, Barzani’s speech caused panic among the Yezidi IDPs who feared internecine bloodshed.

You would be mistaken in thinking that the neglect and harassment of Yezidis is simply confined to Sinjar. Yezidis live all throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, and the abuse is endemic. Almost every one of them can tell you a story of being accused of “devil-worship” by the police and accosted about why they won’t convert to Islam. For all the government pretensions of claiming Yezidis as fellow Kurds, there is a tremendous difference in the way they are treated by authorities. Similar stories can be heard from other minorities like Kakai and Shabaks.

These incidents are all very much at odds with the usual song and dance of KRG officials in the West. To see the PR spin in action, watch Dave Rubin’s recent interview with Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. Listen to what she says with some of the above stories in mind.

Conclusion

 The longer one peers into the abyss of Kurdish politics, the less clear cut and simple the answers become and the more obviously fraudulent the current Western narrative is about the KRG. For their part, the Yezidis do not agree on much, but they almost unanimously desire Sinjar to be under direct American protection of one form or another. Yezidis welcomed American soldiers and signed up by the thousands to serve with the coalition during the Iraq War. To this day, they view the US as the only fair player that can save them from the depredations of the Arabs and domination by the Kurds. You could scarcely find a more uniformly pro-American ethnic group in Iraq. It strikes me as foolish that we would dismiss such a steadfastly loyal minority like the Yezidis, however small, situated strategically on the border of Iraq and Syria.

Instead, US policymakers and journalists have all decided to hitch their cart to the KRG horse; allowing themselves to be smitten by images of female warriors, foreign volunteers, and the superficial religious pluralism and equality peddled by the KRG. That the political class has fallen head over heels for Iraqi Kurdistan is in some ways more forgivable since, to borrow from Donald Rumsfield, we go to war with the allies we have and not the allies we want. But for journalists, it is nothing more than laziness and an unwillingness to do basic research and confront uncomfortable realities.

We owe it to ourselves not to be blinded by our allies’ propaganda and our own fantasies. But most of all, we owe it to the thousands of souls buried in Sinjar.

 

 

 

There are 21 comments.

  1. Pelayo Member

    Thanks for the post. In the absence of this type of account, I was fooled by media reports regarding the role of the KRG in this mess just like many others.

    • #1
    • September 7, 2016, at 2:01 PM PDT
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  2. Z in MT Inactive

    This is a revealing report. Like all I believed the reports about the Kurds protecting the Yazidis. It sucks though, the Kurds were the one muslim group that in the middle east that I thought we could ally with. I guess that may not be the case.

    • #2
    • September 7, 2016, at 2:35 PM PDT
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  3. Herbert defender of the Realm,… Inactive

    Distressing situation. Thanks Claire

    • #3
    • September 7, 2016, at 4:31 PM PDT
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  4. Zafar Member

    Z in MT:This is a revealing report. Like all I believed the reports about the Kurds protecting the Yazidis. It sucks though, the Kurds were the one muslim group that in the middle east that I thought we could ally with. I guess that may not be the case.

    The PKK Kurds (classified as terrorist group) did help the Yazidis.

    Its the KRG Kurds (classified as allies?) who did not – instead sacrificing them to get American attention and aid.

    • #4
    • September 7, 2016, at 4:56 PM PDT
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  5. SpiritO'78 Member

    We need more nuance like this; unfortunately it reminds us how big the Iraq mess really is. No easy answers.

    • #5
    • September 7, 2016, at 6:59 PM PDT
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  6. Eric Hines Inactive

    I confess to being leery of taking his reporting at face value.

    A tidbit: he made a big deal about the Iraqi “army” (my disdainful quote marks) that cut and run as being an American-trained army, with billions spent on its training and equipage, that collapsed. He chose not to mention that it was a Russian-trained army, with billions spent on its training and equipage, that cut and run in front of the American army. He chose not to mention that before that it was an “army” that fought an Iranian army manned, in the end game, with old men and children…to a standstill. But all of that should be neither here nor there: it was an Iraqi “army” that collapsed like used toilet paper. Full stop.

    He also made a deal out of all that “confiscated” (s0me others might say “picked up where it had been abandoned by the fleeing mob”) American weaponry that the Kurds gained, as though that were immediately important. He neglected to mention, though, that the Kurds faced the same problem with that…acquired…weaponry above the small arms as did the Daesh with the American weaponry they acquired from the fleeing mob: lack of resupply, ammunition, ability to maintain the stuff, and training to operate/fight the equipment.

    The whole piece is his spin; maybe it’s accurate, maybe not. But there’s no way to tell: there’s no substantiation, no identifiable sources. He does cite other reporters and an activist (whatever that is in this context). But, checking one of the Daily Beast pieces, that one also has no substantiation–just bald claims. Our guy is rumor mongering, not doing original reporting, as far as I can tell.

    Here’s another spin, regarding the Peshmerga and Sinjar. All of Iraq was in the wind at that time, including Kurdish Iraq. The government had been demonstrating since it had been erected that it didn’t give a fig for the Kurds, only for the oil there, and the “army” had just demonstrated that every one of those folks wearing uniforms wouldn’t even fight for the guy next him, wouldn’t even fight for his family–it certainly wasn’t going to fight for Kurdish Iraq. So: the Peshmerga were withdrawn from a forward salient that would be harder to defend than he seems to understand, especially with the weaponry and ammunition supplies Baghdad had let leak to the Kurds (which may be a reason for going after the Yazidis’ small arms, eh?), to more defensible positions–to defend Kurdish Iraq, without which no support for others would be remotely possible. Could the Peshmerga have handled the withdrawal better? If his description is accurate, certainly. But maybe the withdrawal was entirely legitimate.

    Here’s another spin. It’s a hit job. The press can’t stand for there to be good guys in the world; they have to be torn down. All of us have feet of clay; the press focuses on the clay and ignores the prevalent good.

    We owe it to ourselves to not be blinded by our press’ propaganda and its disdain for anything good.

    Eric Hines

    • #6
    • September 7, 2016, at 7:27 PM PDT
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  7. Sabrdance Member

    Right, as Eric says immediately above -if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the last 16 years in Iraq, it’s not to trust information coming out of those war zones. Everyone wants something -whether its in our interests or not is an open question. Your source wants Americans to provide the defense of the Yezidis. A discrediting of the Kurds (either of them) is a required first step. Maybe he’s telling the truth -but I’ve heard from others different stories. I’ve heard from others that the vaunted “Iraqi army cutting and running” had much less to do with the lack of Iraqi military skill than with the fact that Iraq was unwilling to level Mosul in order to hold it, while ISIS had no such compunction. I don’t know what to make of it one way or the other -and I will not make a decision based on this.

    • #7
    • September 7, 2016, at 8:28 PM PDT
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  8. Nymeria Inactive

    Fascinating, I have read all the stories of the Peshmerga and PKK. It always seemed that the most committed to more Western principles was the PKK given its hardened veterans & open use of female soldiers. Yet I always wondered if the stories of equality & acceptance were true given the history of Muslim Kurds particularly within the Ottoman Empire. The Kurds were used by the Ottomans as enforcers particularly against Christian minorities. The Kurds also relished in the enforcer role within their respective provinces as it gave them a certain amount of power to extort, think Armenian Christians paying a protection fee in addition to the required jizya (dhimni) tax.

    • #8
    • September 7, 2016, at 8:47 PM PDT
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  9. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Poor Yezidis. I don’t think they should count on us, given that either Trump or Hillary is likely to be president.

    • #9
    • September 7, 2016, at 8:55 PM PDT
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  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    From our correspondent in response to your comments:

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    Lest I be accused of being an apologist for the Iraqi Army, I do not for a second defend its scandalous performance in 2014 or any of the charges levied against it by the commenters. On this count, the press has been forthright in treating any claims by the central government with due skepticism. What is frustrating is seeing that same skepticism all but stop at the KRG’s borders. A survey of the Iraqi Army’s history pre and post-Saddam would have been superfluous. My aim was instead to show just how differently the press assesses the performance of two uniquely incompetent military forces within the same country.

    The only part of the Iraqi Army that did not totally dissolve in Nineveh was the 10th Brigade of the 3rd Division stationed in Tel Afar. With the Iraqi capital in danger and Mosul in ISIS hands, the only route for the brigade to withdraw was through Kurdish territory. The KRG only assented to this on condition that the brigade be disarmed. Their weapons along with the 3rd Division’s ammunition depot in Kesek was thereafter seized by the Peshmerga. Thousands of Yazidis actually deserted from the Iraqi Army following this and pleaded for the KDP to return their confiscated weapons to no avail. This is all relevant because it gives lie to the KDP excuse that its soldiers were simply overwhelmed (party officials confirmed nearly 11,000 Peshmerga were present before the withdrawal). The PKK fought ISIS to a stalemate with far fewer soldiers, far fewer weapons, and in a foreign country with unfamiliar terrain.

    But even if we accept the government’s narrative that it was unprepared and outmatched in Sinjar, it would not explain the KDP’s refusal to evacuate civilians, its insistence until the last moment that they would be defended, or the convenient and clandestine withdrawal at the hour of the invasion.

    The notion that this article was written out of some cynical unwillingness to accept goodness in our allies is a fiction. It should be quite clear from my article or any objective analysis of the genocide that the real “good guys” were the PKK in Sinjar. What a degraded state of affairs that the most sympathetic actor in the whole episode was a designated Communist terrorist organization. But its sacrifice was undeniable.

    Lastly, addressing the lack of substantiation and sources, there is scarcely little written in English about the betrayal of Sinjar, with only a handful of journalists raising the issue at all. Nevertheless, I know from spending substantial time in Iraq that the conclusions I drew are overwhelmingly shared by Kurdistan’s Yezidi community and are not the result of some conspiracy to smear an American ally.

    Keep in mind that independent journalism is not a thing in Kurdistan. On the contrary, people who speak out against the ruling parties here often end up beaten, tortured, and conveniently dead under mysterious circumstances. And with major Kurdish news outlets owned by the Barzani family itself, the onus would fall to foreign journalists, who, I contend, have failed miserably.

    • #10
    • September 8, 2016, at 3:21 AM PDT
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  11. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve come to the conclusion there are no good guys for us to support in the region.

    • #11
    • September 8, 2016, at 3:58 AM PDT
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  12. Travis McKee Inactive

    I am interested in hearing how defense of the Nineveh is going. It has been frustrating hearing so little about groups like Sons of Liberty International. Are they worth my support? In the absence of embedded journalists filing dispatches, I don’t know what to make of them.

    • #12
    • September 8, 2016, at 4:16 AM PDT
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  13. Eric Hines Inactive

    From the cited response in Ms Berlinski’s comment:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: the press has been forthright in treating any claims by the central government with due skepticism. What is frustrating is seeing that same skepticism all but stop at the KRG’s borders.

    No one is commenting on the uneven skepticism by the press. My comment, anyway, centered on skepticism of the press in general. (Aside: embedded journalists do better? Like Geraldo Rivera, who sketched in the sand a map of the outline of a battle plan currently in execution, and then broadcast that map for our enemies in contact and those about to be in contact to see, under the fiction that he didn’t understand what he was doing? An anecdote, to be sure, but all too illustrative of the press’ general performance.)

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: addressing the lack of substantiation and sources

    Of course substantiation is difficult, especially in whistle-blowing and in war zones. Even in the American press, editors are pleased to demand corroboration from at least two, or three, sources–even if those corroborators also are unnamed. But difficult means possible.

    But here is the price an industry like “journalism” pays for its fundamental, institutional dishonesty. We simply can’t trust unsubstantiated articles with claims we are unable independently to check; they’re little more than rumor-mongering, National Enquirer stuff. There are exceptions, certainly. Unfortunately, a significant fraction of those exceptions are on Ricochet. I have no way of assess the quality of Ms Berlinski’s correspondent; he may well be one of the quality, objective, honest exceptions. I trust her judgment, but it is only one person’s judgment.

    Eric Hines

    • #13
    • September 8, 2016, at 5:12 AM PDT
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  14. Zafar Member

    Eric Hines:

    I have no way of assess the quality of Ms Berlinski’s correspondent; he may well be one of the quality, objective, honest exceptions. I trust her judgment, but it is only one person’s judgment.

    That’s all there is. One writer, and reader, at a time. There is no universal reference.

    • #14
    • September 8, 2016, at 6:19 AM PDT
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  15. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    It’s always a good idea to keep our skepticism engaged, but thank you for this.

    • #15
    • September 8, 2016, at 6:35 AM PDT
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  16. Unsk Member

    Interesting bit of reporting.

    Claire are you saying we should be backing the PKK, but not the KDP? If so then the Kurds ( at least of the PKK variety) are worth defending along with the Yezidis.

    Unfortunately, with clowns like Clinton or Trump likely to be our next President, it likely will not matter what a rational policy towards this war should be. But it is still good to delve into the matter, to try to bring forth the truth and to agitate towards a better policy.

    • #16
    • September 8, 2016, at 7:17 AM PDT
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  17. Eric Hines Inactive

    One more (last?) thing. Ms Berlinski’s correspondent might want to talk with Spirit of America. They have folks in Kurdish Iraq, including folks supporting an all female Peshmerga unit, who might have a perspective on the matter–one that might refute or corroborate his thesis.

    Eric Hines

    • #17
    • September 8, 2016, at 8:54 AM PDT
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  18. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Unsk: Claire are you saying we should be backing the PKK, but not the KDP?

    I’m not saying any of this: I published it on behalf of a correspondent who asked to be anonymous. None of them are my words.

    • #18
    • September 8, 2016, at 10:10 AM PDT
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  19. Lensman Thatcher
    Lensman Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am inclined to believe the correspondent’s account of Kurdish perfidy and betrayal of the Yezidis. If you want another perspective on the Kurds that is equally skeptical you might want to read Tom Kratman’s column on the subject. He is retired Lt. Col. Infantry and has some very good military SF novels to his credit. His fact-based analysis of our allies the Kurds is based on years of experience.

    There have been numerous reports throughout the past ten years or so of the tyranny and corruption of Barzini, who runs the Kurdish region of Iraq like a personal fiefdom.

    • #19
    • September 8, 2016, at 4:17 PM PDT
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  20. Zafar Member

    You know they only claim to be the Rohirrim because we demand it of them.

    • #20
    • September 8, 2016, at 7:12 PM PDT
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  21. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar:

    Z in MT:This is a revealing report. Like all I believed the reports about the Kurds protecting the Yazidis. It sucks though, the Kurds were the one muslim group that in the middle east that I thought we could ally with. I guess that may not be the case.

    The PKK Kurds (classified as terrorist group) did help the Yazidis.

    Its the KRG Kurds (classified as allies?) who did not – instead sacrificing them to get American attention and aid.

    Well, maybe. They also cut and ran from Mosul; most Iraqis still not liberated from ISIS are Iraqis whose liberation depended on Kurdish forces rather than the multiethnic Iraqi Army. There are reasons for retreating that are not that cynical.

    Thankfully, the slanders of David French and pals were unfounded; the Iraqi army has been pretty successful at defeating the world’s most powerful terrorist force and are now preparing to retake Kurdistan with Peshmerga and international assistance.

    In both cases (Baghdad and Erbil) terrible mistakes were made but subsequent conduct has been better.

    • #21
    • September 9, 2016, at 1:46 PM PDT
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