The shock waves of the war, which now engulfed a significant part of the Middle East, are reaching the furthest corners of the planet. The global media covers in detail the actions of the Iraqi army and the Syrian government forces. The activities of the "Islamic State" (IG), banned in Russia, and the Syrian armed opposition does not remain without the attention of journalists. In this interview we will discuss the struggle of the Kurdish militia, which is fighting more effectively than the troops of Iraq and Bashar al-Assad. My interlocutor, the representative of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan in Russia, Khoshavi BABAKR, agreed to give a general assessment of what is happening in Syria, Iraq and adjacent territories of their neighboring countries.
IRAQ AREA OF PEOPLE
- Mr. Babakr, please tell us about the party that you represent in our country.
- I here represent the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP). It is mainly located in Iraqi Kurdistan and is the most numerous party of the regional government of Kurdistan, representatives of our party are majority in the government. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani is the chairman of the KDP.
- Are you from Iraq? Can you say that you also represent the Peshmerga military organization?
- Yes, I'm from Iraq. Kurd from iraq. Our party is part of the government, in fact, is the ruling party at the moment, and the peshmerga is the Kurdistan (Iraqi) armed forces, and there are a lot of members of our party among these forces. You can say that I represent the Peshmerga.
- What are the objectives of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan? Does its program have the task of achieving independence for Kurdistan? Is KDP the only party in Iraqi Kurdistan?
- In Iraqi Kurdistan governs a coalition government. But KDP during the last election won a majority of votes and is the ruling party according to the results of the elections. In addition to us, the government includes the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Islamic United Party.
Kurdistan President Barzani is consulting with a coalition of Kurdistan political parties, a referendum is planned to be held, at which the question of complete independence from Baghdad will be put forward. And as a result of the referendum, concrete steps may be taken to gain independence, but how, when and how this will be carried out, as long as there is no complete clarity, painstaking work is underway on this. The decision of the referendum will not give an opportunity to immediately withdraw from the composition of Iraq, a long preparation is ahead for the success of such an action. Why are we sure we will get independence? Everything is obvious, Iraq is actually divided into three almost independent from each other region: the country of Shiites, the country of Sunnis and the country of Kurds. The south of the country before Baghdad belongs to the Shiites, the center is Sunni, and the north is Kurdish territory.
- Tell us more about the Peshmerga and your main opponent on the IG battlefield.
- The organization itself appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century; it is translated into Russian as “pesh” - go forward, merg means death, that is, “go to death”. As you can see, consonant with the Russian language, with the words on foot and dead.
Until 1991, the Peshmerga was a partisan movement, then the question arose of the need to create a regular army, its name was left the same, but qualitatively this organization was completely transformed. An army structure and a combined arms organization appeared. We even have aviationTrue, only transport helicopters. The number of peshmerga is about 200 thousand people. In the future, after the formation of the Islamic State, weapons for the peshmerga came from the Czech Republic, Hungary and other countries of the former Warsaw Pact, which now joined NATO. This is mainly an old Soviet weaponremoved from storage. Germany supplied anti-tank missiles "Milan". (Armed with a peshmerga tanks T55 about 200, T62 - about 170, T72 - about 30, PT76 - about 70; BMP - about 30, armored personnel carriers - about 250; anti-tank RPGs, LNG, PRUTS, air defense systems MANPADS, memory, ZSU; miscellaneous barrels and rocket artillery. - HBO). Turkey does not supply weapons.
The total length of the front with the IG is 1200 km. The number of fighters in the IG, in my steadfast conviction, is no less than 100 thousands. The “Islamic State” unites not only the Salafis, but also those who are ready to fight against the expansion of the West and the Shiites, whose aggressiveness they are sure of. Therefore, we must be aware that a significant part of the Sunni world really supports the IG and does so in accordance with their beliefs.
As for weapons, the IG, in possession of Mosul in 2014, seized a huge amount of weapons and military equipment, which was prepared for two or three divisions of the Iraqi army by the US military. According to my data, the Americans put their new weapons for these divisions (the Iraqi General Staff confirmed that the IG got 2,3 thousand armored vehicles HMMWV, Humvee. - NVO). Peshmerga in 2014 year faced with the problem that the militias of the IG were much better armed. In the future, thanks to the actions of the coalition aviation and the Russian space forces, most of this IG technology was lost as a result of air strikes. And besides tanks, other armored vehicles and artillery, IG got helicopters and airplanes, but the Islamists in the battle could not use this aircraft, for what reason I don’t know. Initially, most of the Gulf countries supported the IG not in a state, but as a private donation, but in significant quantities. Only Oman was not noticed in this (the state religion of Oman is Islam of Ibadah, the third direction in Islam, different from Sunni and Shi'ism. - NVO).
SPACES OF ONE PEOPLE
- Tell us about the Kurds.
- The Kurds are now in number in the Middle East region only behind Persians, Arabs and Turks. According to very approximate data, more than 20 million Kurds live in the south-eastern part of Turkey, and this is 90% of the total Kurdish population in Turkey. In Iraq there are 6 millions, in Iran there has not been a census for a long time, but according to 30 years ago, there are about 10 millions, now, I think, much more. About 10 million millions of Kurds live in Syria. In Syria, the smallest part of Kurdistan, the largest is in Turkey, then - Iran, then - Iraq. The Kurds have two main dialects - the northern and southern Kurmanji, the second is also called turuni. Kurmanji carriers poorly understand the Turaini speakers, but still understand. In addition, there is now an opportunity to communicate via the Internet, receive information on television, and thanks to other media the difference between dialects is not as strong as it was before. By religion Kurds are mostly Sunni, Shafi maskhab, there are followers of Sufism, Naqshbandi, Kadiri and others. Sufism in Kurdistan has been very common since antiquity, as well as in Syria and Iraq. Barzani, the ancestor of Naqshbandi, was born in Kurdistan. The Sufis, though Sunni, borrowed a great deal from Indian beliefs. Hence the tolerance of the Sufis to other religions. In Barzani, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Gnostics always got along peacefully with each other. There are also Shiites who mostly live in Iran, to a lesser extent in Iraq. There are Yezidis, this is an ancient belief, they are also called fire worshipers, there are about 3 thousands in Iraq. Another religious trend, the Kakei, living in Kirkuk, has its own beliefs in the Khavraman area on the border between Iraq and Iran - these are different Zoroastrian communities. There are also Alawites, they are not Muslims, they, it seems to me, belong to one of the Gnostic teachings and have embraced Islam only externally. What they profess is unknown, but for some reason the Iranian ayatollah recognizes them as Shiites. Although the Alawites do not have mosques and they do not pray like Muslims. It seems to me that they initially resisted the expansion of Islam, but in the end, in order to survive, they were forced to accept the outer shell of Islam.
- Is there any religious discord among Kurds?
- AT storiesOf course, there are many examples of such discord, especially irreconcilable hostile relations used to be between Muslims and Yezidis. At the beginning of the IG’s activities, it included Sunni Kurds, but according to the data I have, most of them died, the rest left the IG ranks. They were not trusted in Daesh, suspecting that they were cooperating with us, so they either sent them to the most dangerous sectors of the front, where it was impossible to survive, or simply executed them. If now there are Kurds in Daesh, there are very few of them there.
- Do you somehow interact with Syrian Kurdistan?
- Yes, in part. We assisted them in Kobani, when his defenders were bleeding, when there were battles for each house - the Peshmerga units came to the aid of their Syrian brothers. In mass media, information is slipping that at present the ties between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds have cooled considerably, but this is not so. Whenever possible, we help them economically, politically and militarily. Including weapons.
- Do you interact with Turkish Kurdistan? With the Kurdistan Workers' Party?
- Yes, we are in contact with the Turkish Kurds. But we have a special relationship with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), many consider it a terrorist organization, but not us. In Turkey, this party is in an underground position and is waging an armed struggle with the Turkish authorities, and we are not in conflict, on the contrary, we cooperate with Ankara politically and economically. We are pursuing a very cautious, balanced policy with our northern neighbor. In Turkey, we also interact with the legal pro-Kurdish party, this is the Party of the Peoples of Turkey, which won more than 11% of votes at the last election and won seats in the Majlis (Turkish parliament. - IEE). It is the official parliamentary party, which acts openly in the political struggle by legal means. In addition to Turkey, the PKK is considered terrorist by Iran, the countries of the Persian Gulf.
- Do you have connections with Iranian Kurds?
- Very careful work is also going on with Iranian Kurds. The fact is that more recently they have rather actively fought with the Iranian authorities. We are talking about two factions of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and two factions of the Komal party - the association of workers of Kurdistan. After the 1991 of the year, when the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan was formed, under pressure from our side, the parties I mentioned stopped the armed actions against the Iranian authorities. This contributed to the stabilization of the situation inside Iraqi Kurdistan. In any case, from Iran’s side, hostile actions against us have ceased. A truce was announced between us and the Iranian authorities, which continues to this day. We keep in touch with the listed political parties, but we have limited contact with them, with restraint, first of all we show them that we will not tolerate their armed uprisings against Tehran if they arise. Thereby we encourage them to a peaceful political path of struggle for their rights. They have bases and representative offices in Iraqi Kurdistan. There are Kurdish parties in Iran that defend the rights of the Kurds with parliamentary methods. We maintain economic and political contacts with both Turkey and Iran. For example, the annual trade turnover with Turkey is 12 billion US dollars. Not only our oil goes through us, but also Iraqi oil. We also have close political and economic relations with Iran.
- Tell us who is in charge of the Syrian Kurdistan militia, who supports him?
- There are several political parties. There are parties that do not take part in the armed struggle, such as the National Kurdish Council of Syria. The armed forces are led by the Party of the Democratic Union. The militia was called the Syrian Democratic Army (ATS). Women fight on a par with men (SDA has about 65 thousands of bayonets. - HBO). This army was formed with the help of PKK militants who gained considerable combat experience in confrontation with the Turkish authorities. Their weapons are not very powerful, armored vehicles and artillery are few, they fight mostly with small arms and with enthusiasm. I know that the Americans threw their weapons through the air several times. There is information that Damascus also armed them. They buy weapons in Syria and Iraq, now you can buy any small arms, including modern samples. Syrian Kurds are mostly Sunni, but thanks to the activities of political parties, which are essentially non-religious, the population was able to turn away from radical Islam in the direction of social values. Many political parties have a left-wing orientation, some took Marxism-Leninism as an ideological base. As an example, the PKK. Therefore, we can say that the main ideology of the Syrian militia is a kind of Kurdish socialism. The ATS is based on Syrian Kurds, but there are some volunteers from Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
- There are two sites that control the Syrian Kurds: the large eastern and significantly smaller in size western, and between them the IG wedged in, which in this segment has access to the Syrian-Turkish border. Do these areas somehow interact with each other, do they have the same or different leadership?
- Yes, they interact, moreover, the Kurds managed to make significant progress in the direction of Aleppo, an airport was taken, and Azaz, in turn, passed through the road connecting Aleppo and Turkey. The entire length of the Syrian-Turkish border 822 kilometers, and 700 kilometers border the Kurds with their armed forces. This border is the line of the Cold War, where fighting is not conducted, except when the Turks subject to fire or air strikes the positions of the Kurdish militia, but to cover this line is necessary, and this delays considerable forces that could be used against the IS. When the Turks bombard the Syrian Kurds, the latter have to exercise restraint and not respond with fire to fire, in order not to provoke a Turkish invasion. After the start of the Russian VKS operation in Syria, the frequency of these attacks was reduced, and after the incident with the Russian Su-24, the Turks completely stopped air strikes on SDA.
- There is information about the possibility of the start of the land operation of Turkey and Saudi Arabia in Syria. If they embark on such an expansion, do you think Syrian Kurds are ready to fight the Turks and the Saudis?
- The Kurds have repeatedly proved that they are ready to act decisively to repel an attack by an aggressor. There were cases when they invaded Iraqi Kurdistan, and the peshmerga was ready to fight with them. One such incident occurred during the civil war in Iraqi Kurdistan (the civil war in Iraqi Kurdistan lasted from May 1994 to 24 in November 1997 of the year. The Turks launched an invasion of 1997 in the year. - IEE). Now it’s impossible even to assume that the Turks will invade Iraqi Kurdistan is impossible, since Ankara and I have warm relations. As for the Syrian Kurds, it is possible that they are ready to fight the Turkish military, but only if the Turks themselves attack them. ATS does not pose a danger to Turkey, although it maintains relations with the PKK, so the Turks do not need to seriously attack them. It seems to me that even in the event of an invasion of the Turkish army, clashes between the Turks and the Syrian Kurds will be sporadic.
- Do you think the Turks are carrying out plans for the occupation of some part of Syrian territory?
- Ankara considers Northern Syria a zone of its geopolitical interests.
- This is due to the fact that there are densely Turkmen?
- In fact, this is just an excuse, there are not so many Turkmen there. For example, earlier the Turks stated that a million Turkmen live in Iraqi Kurdistan, in fact they counted only a few thousand. I think that in Syria the Turkmen population is also insignificant. But the Sunni Arabs who live here, in a large number of people, treat the Turks as if they were their co-religionists. The Turks supply the Sunni so-called moderate opposition with weapons and ammunition. Frankly, these moderates are no different from the radicals. Of course, you can isolate from this mass some groups that do not suffer from the Islamists, but simply are the forces of local self-defense, by the way, the Kurds are cooperating with them. But you know, these groups are very weak and can do little to help in a decisive fight against IS.
- Tell us about the features of combat training peshmerga and ATS. Who trains them, how does it teach, how effectively does the Kurdish militia fight?
- If we look at the overall picture, it is clear that it was the Kurds, both Iraqi and Syrian, who achieved the greatest success in the war with the IG. The Syrian government forces are less successful in this struggle, and the Iraqi army is at its worst. In Iraq, the Kurdish militia entrenched on the Dahuk-Erbil line. The Peshmerga is successfully advancing to the cities of Shengal and Khavija, Mosul is surrounded.
Kirkuk in our hands. At the same time, the Peshmerga continues to advance.
Syrian Kurds are also moving forward, not as fast as we, but still. The city of Kamyshlo has long been in their hands, Kobani released. Now they moved up to Azaz. There used to be three disparate territories that were controlled by Syrian Kurds, now the two eastern sites are combined into a large area, from where the militia continues to advance towards Aleppo.
The Peshmerga will continue to advance to the main bed of the Tigris River to the west, to the south to the line of Mount Hamrina — these are all Kurdish lands, and we want to regain them. For example, Tigris divides Mosul into eastern and western parts, and so the eastern half of Mosul is Kurdish. There will be no further attack on these historic borders of the Peshmerga, we don’t want animosity between us and the Sunni Arabs and don’t lay claim to their lands. If the Peshmerga invades the territory of the Sunni Arab tribes, it will meet there with desperate, determined resistance.
Syrian Kurds are also planning to attack in order to lift the blockade from the western sector called Afrin.
The tactics of the Peshmerga and Syrian militia are no longer partisan, despite the fact that these formations cannot yet be called a regular army. There are two military academies in Iraqi Kurdistan, where command personnel are trained in the cities of Tahoe and Kalacholan, near Sulemaniyah. The Peshmerga, as an active armed force, distinct from the partisan formations, has been operating since the 1991 year. When there was a danger of expansion by the IG, these forces were not enough. A new slogan was issued, calling on the population to go to war and protect their homeland and, if necessary, die for it. The new militia was formed from volunteers, based on the Kurdish military traditions, but this is not enough for a modern war. We turned to Western military experts, who took upon themselves the training of our soldiers and the training of units in modern battle tactics. In addition to the Americans, military instructors from Germany, Italy, Canada and other countries participate in the training of our militias.
ABOUT POSSIBLE SECTION OF SYRIA
- Do Syrian Kurds plan to become independent from Damascus?
- It all depends on the situation that will develop as a result of the development of military operations. Of course, the Kurds want to self-determination, they want to create their own state, but the desired is not always achievable. We are thinking about the possibility of uniting Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan. There are publications in the Western press, which offer maps showing the results of a possible separation of Syria and Iraq. After all, not only the Kurds tend to unite. Syrian and Iraqi Sunni Arabs are also not averse to creating their own united independent state. The fact is that in the days of the Ottoman Empire, the borders did not divide the Kurdish people or, say, the Sunni Arabs who inhabited the upper part of the interfluve of the Euphrates and Tigris. The borders of Syria and Iraq, carried out under the Treaty of Sevres, cut the territories inhabited by Sunni Arabs and Kurds, without taking into account the interests of these peoples.
(According to the results of the First World War, in which the Ottoman Empire fought on the German side and was defeated, among other treaties the Treaty of Sevres was signed in 1920, in the city of Sevres, near Paris. It was an agreement on the division of the Ottoman Empire, which left only a small part territory, the northern half of the modern Central Anatolian region and the western half of the current Black Sea region of Turkey. The remaining vast lands were given under the protectorate of the victorious countries of Great Britain, . Uu, Italy, the United States on the Treaty of Lausanne 1922 years were defined modern borders of Turkey, Syria became a French mandated territory, and Iraq came under the protectorate of London, the independence of these countries acquired after the Second World War -.. IEE).
Therefore, it is highly likely that in the event of the division of Syria and Iraq, the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds will create a united independent state. The same state is likely to be proclaimed by Sunni Arabs, now living in the adjacent territories of Syria and Iraq. They have one religion, some cultural values and traditions, one language.
So the territories that are now occupied by the IG can be further given to the independent state of the Sunnis, by the way, this is achieved by the Sunni countries of the Persian Gulf.
- What nations of modern Syria can create independent states in the event of its collapse?
- Now the Kurds have declared the creation of autonomy, but so far as part of Syria. Maybe Syria will become a federation or a confederation, then the Kurds will continue to be part of it as an autonomy. But in the event of the collapse of Syria, they will seek to unite with Iraqi Kurdistan. Of course, in this case Alavistan will stand out, these are coastal and western territories, which are mainly inhabited by Alawite. Undoubtedly, the Druze will strive to create their own independent state, and this is the south-western lands of modern Syria. This ethnic group is supported by Israel and Jordan. For Jerusalem and Amman, the state of Druze is necessary to ensure the security of borders with problem areas, which are still part of Syria. The Israeli Defense Minister recently suggested a possible division of Syria. I will tell you an interesting fact, which very few people know. Druzes by origin are also Kurds, but they have identified themselves on the basis of a religious community. At the time of Hafez Asad, the Druze occupied high posts in the Syrian army. Now some tribes support his son, but mostly Druze tend to autonomy and neutrality. In Syria, there are still Armenians, Assyrians and Circassians, now they support the Assad regime or are fighting against jihadists within the local self-defense forces, but they do not claim to create their autonomies.
ON POSSIBLE FOREIGN INTERVENTION AGAINST SYRIA
- If Turkey and Saudi Arabia still decide on a land invasion of Syria, what could this lead to?
“If they invade the lands of the Sunnis, they have the opportunity to conduct the invasion quite successfully, so they may be perceived as allies.” In the territories of the Alawites or the Kurds, they will have to fight seriously, practically not counting on success. But in the first case, they will practically accomplish the task of dividing Syria. Again, there are many risks in this option. Such an invasion will not remain without the reaction of the Russian military, unless there is a preliminary agreement on it. According to Euronews, such an invasion could lead to a third world war. I have no idea how such Ankara and Riyadh can do this without the consent of other participants in the war. Well, of course, the coalition forces can support them, but there are still Russia and Iran that will be strongly opposed to such actions.
By the way, Saudi Arabia conducts military exercises on the border with Iraq, which is very unhappy with Baghdad. Naturally, the reaction followed, the Iraqi troops are on high alert.
One thing I can say for sure: Turkey and Saudi Arabia, under the pretext of fighting the IG, strive to observe their interests in the region, while they are unlikely to actually fight against the Islamists. It is possible that they simply want to hinder the advancement of real IG opponents deep into Sunni territories. But here I want to make a reservation that I do not have accurate data on the cooperation of Ankara and IG. The only thing I can say for sure: for a long time, Turkey has not actively opposed the IG, which indirectly contributed to its strengthening.
I can’t say anything about the information that Turkey supplies IG with weapons and ammunition. There were only the facts of the supply of weapons of moderate opposition, which then successfully migrated into the hands of the IS soldiers. It is known that the border between Syria and Turkey, where there are no Alawite or Kurdish militia, is practically transparent, of course, it is possible for penetration through both weapons and replenishment in manpower for the IS. The Turkish authorities have repeatedly made a statement that they cannot reliably control the entire border. I don’t try to judge how sincerely Ankara made these statements. In the Russian media there have been many reports that Turkey buys oil from the IG. And here it is impossible to say anything unequivocally, this oil passes through many intermediaries, so the end customer may not know whose oil it really is. We were also accused that the IS through our country supplies oil to Turkey, but this is really not the case. Iraqi Kurds supply their oil to Turkey, the oil pipeline in this direction is only one and its capacity is not enough. And oil revenue for Kurdistan is very important, so we use motor transport for these purposes and in very large quantities.
- If Turkey invades Syria, how will the Syrian Kurds behave?
- It seems to me, despite Ankara’s strained, almost hostile relations with the Syrian Kurds, the latter will fight with the Turks only as a last resort, with an urgent need to defend their territories. On the part of Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of the start of hostilities between the ATS and Turkish troops, military support is possible, but only in the sense that we will help in the fight against IS, so that our Syrian brothers do not have to fight on two fronts. But against Turkey, the militia of Iraqi Kurdistan is unlikely to start military actions, it is contrary to our interests at the moment. Imagine what will happen if we enter the war with Turkey, the whole region will be in flames of a fierce war, and the Kurdish militia is clearly inferior to the Turkish army. As a result of this war, we risk losing everything we have achieved lately. Here, a simple political interest, it is better to lose part than all that you have. Another thing is Turkish Kurds, they will almost certainly start action, because they have nothing to lose. But I would like to stress once again that Iraqi Kurdistan does not intend to fight against Turkey.
- How do you assess the Turkish army in its current state?
- The Turkish army has recently been undoubtedly one of the strongest not only in the region, but also in a wider area, including the Transcaucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Among the NATO countries, this army was at the forefront. In general, it remained so, taking into account one fact: the army was the leading political force in Turkey itself, but it was, its significance was even stated in the Turkish Constitution, the military had the constitutional right in the event of a political crisis to take power for a short time . Erdogan, as is known, deprived the military of former political influence, carried out purges in the army, many high-ranking military commanders turned out to be behind bars. I doubt that the military is so easy to forget. In addition, the elimination of part of the senior officers did not pass without a trace and, of course, weakened the armed forces of the country to some extent.