The battle for Sinjar is about more than Daesh

Published November 1st, 2015 - 04:55 GMT
Sinjar mountain and the surrounding town remains a contested area, sought by Iraqi Kurdish authorities, Yazidis, the Iraqi government and Daesh. (AFP/File)
Sinjar mountain and the surrounding town remains a contested area, sought by Iraqi Kurdish authorities, Yazidis, the Iraqi government and Daesh. (AFP/File)

Just over a year ago, Sinjar mountain and its surrounding territory became the site of the first US airstrikes to hit Iraq in 2014 after a lightning siege by Daesh (ISIS) left thousands of Yazidis slaughtered or enslaved.

Now Kurdish forces are planning a major offensive to take it back, Reuters reports, saying a number of military trucks carrying Iraqi Kurdistan’s peshmerga fighters have been seen headed toward Sinjar in recent days.

But the fate of Sinjar is about much more than Daesh— it’s a coveted chip in a larger power struggle in northern Iraq. It’s history and present are anything but simple.

The town straddles the main road connecting the Daesh strongholds of Mosul, in northern Iraq, and Raqqa, in eastern Syria. Bringing it under Kurdish control could disrupt flow between the two.

But freeing it from the militants’ grip wouldn’t solve everything. US airstrikes have helped the peshmerga regain huge chunks of what they claim as historic Kurdish lands in northern Iraq, but Sinjar is a contested zone that both Iraq’s federal government and regional Kurdish authorities claim as theirs.

Meanwhile, the Yazidis claim it as the homeland they intend to return to once the violence dissipates. Hundreds are massing to join the upcoming offensive in militias of their own, according to Reuters.

This week, the fight may be about taking back the territory from Daesh, but there’s still a long road ahead after that happens.

By Elizabeth Tarbell

 


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