The KRG vows to come to the aid of Kurds in northern Syria facing jihadist attacks in a sign that Syria’s war could continue to spill over borders
Senior Iraqi Kurdish officials have met with the outlawed Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) in the Kandil Mountains as the leader of northern Iraq threatened to intervene in neighboring Syria to defend Kurds there from al-Qaeda-linked fighters.
In a letter posted online on Aug. 10, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani said he had directed Kurdish representatives to go to neighboring Syria to investigate news reports that the “terrorists of al-Qaeda are attacking the civilian population and slaughtering innocent Kurdish women and children.”
The statement follows weeks of clashes in predominantly Kurdish parts of northeastern Syrian near the Iraqi border between the al-Nusra Front and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The fighting has killed dozens on both sides.
A Turkish teenager was injured after a stray bullet hit his chest on Aug. 10 in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa’s Ceylanpınar district in the latest case of civilians being injured in the Turkish border town by bullets fired from Syria. The bullet was reportedly fired from the Tel Halaf area in the southwestern part of Ras al-Ayn, the adjacent border town to Ceylanpınar.
Turkish security forces bolstered security after the clashes, Anadolu Agency reported. Four people have died in Ceylanpınar since the latest battles started in Ras al-Ayn last month.
“If the reports are true, showing that citizens, women and the children of innocent Kurds are under threat from murder and terrorism, Iraq’s Kurdistan region will make use of all of its capabilities to defend women and children and innocent citizens,” Barzani’s statement said. He did not elaborate on the nature or extent of possible intervention.
Salih Muslim, the leader of the PYD, said Aug. 10 that the Iraqi leader had indicated that if the investigating team deems it necessary, he would be willing to send Iraqi Kurdistan’s armed security forces into Syria, according to a report from the Washington Post.
Muslim said armed forces from Iraqi Kurdistan would be allowed into Syria “if needed to defend the people.”
“At the moment there’s no agreement and no request for that. At the moment we feel the people of [Syrian] Kurdistan can defend [themselves],” the report quoted him as saying.
Barzani’s letter was sent on Aug. 8 to the preparatory committee for a Kurdish National Conference to be held in the northern Iraqi capital of Arbil on Aug. 24. The panel includes envoys from Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Barzani asked the committee to form another panel that would go into Syria.
Posted on the KRG website, Barzani’s statement referred to areas in Syria as “Western Kurdistan” – Rojava in Kurdish.
Meanwhile, senior members of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party (IKDP), headed by Barzani, and Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (IKYB), headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, met with Cemil Bayık, the executive head of the KCK, the PKK’s alleged urban wing, in the Kandil Mountains on Aug. 9.
IKDP politburo official Kemal Kerkuki and IKYB official Sadi Ahmet Pire discussed clashes in northern Syria, border gates between Iraq and Syria, the Kurdish National Conference and the peace process in Turkey. Ronahi Serhat and Zeki Şengali, executive members of the KCK, also participated in the meeting.