Kurdish Peshmerga Plays a Key Role in Mosul Operation

The operation to liberate Mosul is progressing well enough. Peshmerga forces established control over several areas in the east and north, and the Iraqi army - just south of Mosul. ISIS virtually maintains no resistance to Peshmerga forces and Iraqi troops in the open areas, concentrating militants inside the city. In the coming days the allies will continue to approach to the city from three directions. It seems that by the end of October the fighting may start directly on the outskirts of Mosul, and after some resistance Mosul is to be liberated.

Kurdish Peshmerga plays a key role in the operation. Now they have enough combat-ready forces, but without strong international support are highly vulnerable and begin fighting against ISIS only in conditions of strong air support and manpower superiority.

The alliance between Turkey and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)reinforces the latter's military might and is directed primarily against the forces of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the subordinated Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD). Support from Ankara provides KDP's growing influence in Iraqi Kurdistan against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as well as the presence of Turkish interests in the development of the situation in Mosul.

The future of the Mosul (Nineveh) province appears to be as follows: the eastern part of the province, to the east of the Euphrates, some areas in the north of the province, as well as Sinjar in the northwest are claimed by the Kurds, while the city of Mosul, south and west of the province will be controlled by the Iraqi authorities. The de facto accession of these territories to Kurdistan is considered by KDP as a step to balance the growing influence of PUK, because the latter established control over Kirkuk and some areas of Diyala province.

A joint operation by Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga in Mosul became possible after certain preliminary agreements between the Kurdistan Region president Massoud Barzani and the Iraqi authorities under the auspices of the United States. Economic difficulties in Kurdistan due to falling oil prices and a serious miscalculations by Kurdistan administration in the economic sphere forced Kurds in Erbil to adjust their independence rhetoric. The main obstacle on the path to independence is the unresolved power separation in Kurdistan and presence of two de facto governments, one of which (PUK) considers premature to raise the question of secession from Iraq.

Therefore in the near future the Kurds will continue a difficult dialogue with Baghdad, and at the same time they will try to legitimize their territorial gains in Kirkuk and Nineveh, which became possible due to the ISIS successes and the weakening of the Iraqi authorities. The Kurds will try to legalize de jure the administrative boundaries changes of provinces and the Kurdistan Region.

Nodar Mosaki is senior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences.

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