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Kurdish Land-Grab Stuns Baghdad

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Kurdish forces launched a barrage of Grad missiles against Islamic State (Isis) positions inside Mosul last week, for the first time since Isis overran Iraq’s second-largest city in June last year, marking a dramatic shift in the Kurds’ battle against the terrorist group.

The bombardment was preceded by a large-scale Kurdish operation against Isis in northern Iraq, which saw 5,000 Kurdish fighters, supported by US-led coalition airstrikes, sweep around Mosul to recapture an area larger than the size of Andorra, Liechtenstein and San Marino combined.

In the offensive, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters killed over 200 Isis militants, ousting the group from almost 300 square miles of territory, capturing a number of areas contested with Baghdad. As they advanced, encircling Mosul on three sides and cutting vital Isis supply lines to the nearby towns of Tal Afar and Sinjar, the Kurdish forces began a counter-offensive that analysts worry may be the start of a territory war between the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and Baghdad.

The Kurdish forces captured Makhmour, to the east of the city; the towns of Zimar and Wannah, and several Arab villages located in the Sinjar Mountains, west of Mosul; and the area around Mosul Dam, in what amounts to a Kurdish land-grab backed by Western airstrikes.

Iraqi Kurds believe that the recaptured territory around the city is rightfully theirs while the Iraqi government “fears that the Kurds will use territory as leverage during political negotiations”, according to Ranj Alaaldin, a visiting scholar at Columbia University.


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Guest Friday, 05 June 2020