Kurdish forces advance as international opposition to Islamic State grows

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Yesterday the Peshmerga, military of the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq, gained control of parts of the Mosul Dam, as part of their advance against insurgents of the Islamic State. International opposition to the Islamic militant group has grown this week.

Mosul Dam
Image: United States Army Corps of Engineers.

The Peshmerga were supported this weekend by US airstrikes in their attempt to push back the Sunni insurgents, and Kurdish officials reported "good progress" in the face of "fierce resistance". Reuters reported eyewitness accounts of Kurdish forces successfully retaking Batmaiya and Telasqaf, mostly Christian towns as close to Mosul — about 18 miles (30 km) — as they have come since June when government forces were forced out.

Mosul Dam, Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam, is vital to the region's irrigation, as well as water and power supplies. It was seized by the insurgents of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, on August 7, as part of their advance across Northern Iraq.

International response

The advance of the Islamic State has prompted responses from many parts of the international community. On Friday the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution targeting the extremist group's finances and leaders. Six individuals were named and now face travel bans, asset freezes, and arms embargoes. The resolution also warned of the possibility of other sanctions against anyone found to be trading with the Islamic State, in a move aimed at stopping their supply of weapons and economic gain from sale of oil being produced by the oil fields under their control.

UN security council chamber
Image: Bernd Untiedt.

On the same day as the Security Council's resolution, foreign ministers of the European Union's member states issued a joint statement welcoming the efforts of those European states supporting Kurdish forces. This support includes the supply of military supplies from France, and humanitarian aid from the UK, with Eastern European countries providing military materials also being transported by the UK. Germany and the Netherlands were also reportedly considering the possibility of supplying aid where needed.

The US began launching airstrikes on August 8, and have continued to do so in support of the Kurdish forces and civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar.

The responses from the international community follow reports of brutality against religious minorities in Northern Iraq — such as Yazidis and Christians — accompanying the Islamic State advance across the region.

Local response

Rudaw reported from within Kurdistan that the local political parties have put aside their differences and are recruiting volunteers to send to the front. Many of these parties can trace their beginnings back to the 1960s–1990s struggle against the Iraqi army, many of whom continue to maintain militias which are now being deployed to reinforce the Kurdish army in the region. These are reported to have been joined by groups of ethnic Kurds from Iran.

Reports say hundreds of Yazidi volunteers are also being trained inside Kurdistan to help fight the Islamic State's advance.