Fear of Kurdish contagion grows

20 October 2015

Political disputes in Iraqi Kurdistan are likely to aggravate instability beyond its borders

On 11 October the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Iraqi Kurdistan’s biggest party, unilaterally decided to expel its main rival, the Gorran party, from the ruling national unity government escalating political tensions in the region.

The move came after a weekend of rioting that saw six people killed and around 12 KDP offices torched in attacks that that the party has blamed on Gorran activists.

Gorran has since described KDP’s actions as a military coup d’état against Kurdistan’s parliament.

Since mid-2014 the US has successfully capitalised on stability in Iraqi Kurdistan to stop the spread of the jihadist group in northern Iraq, but now the US partnership with the Kurds looks far more uncertain.

The shooting of protesters during the riots has increased concerns that weapons intended to be used against Isis will be co-opted and used by Kurdish political groups to fight amongst each other.

There are also fears that the standoff between the KDP and its main political rivals could also have a contagion effect, increasing tensions between Kurdish groups and other entities in neighbouring countries at a time when they are under close scrutiny.

In Turkey relations between the government and Kurdish groups have declined significantly. Kurdish activists have been accused of killing policemen, and at least 86 people were killed when a pro-Kurdish march was targeted by suicide bombers in Ankara on 10 October.

In Syria Kurds are under pressure after being accused of war crimes in an Amnesty International report that was published on 13 October.

In the current political climate the KRG should be mediating disputes, and helping the region’s disparate Kurdish groups present a united front to fend off external threats. The latest bout of political violence and its aftermath means that Iraqi Kurdistan is more likely to be a source of further instability than a calming influence.

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