This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Differentiating The Good Guys From The Bad

"To Mosoud, the dog, how many attempts will it take before you will know your ability. You should know that if you were to gather your forces with all the airplanes in the world, we will still defeat you and we shall conquer Erbil soon."
Islamic State video 

"We are aware of the arrest of a Canadian citizen in Iraq. Canadian consular officials at the embassy of Canada in Amman, Jordan, are providing consular assistance as required."
Rachna Mishra, spokeswoman, Foreign Affairs

"He joined YPG because he was sick of ISIS. Just a bloke there to do what he could."
Colin Rutterford, Briton, Iraq

"[Western fighters with the YPG are thought of as] potential problem makers. As a result I think the volunteers are getting caught up in events which are bigger than them and over which they have no control."
Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies, Royal United Services Institute

Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, stand guard near a check point in the outskirts of the destroyed Syrian town of Kobani in this June 20 photo. A Canadian man arrested in Iraq reportedly had volunteered with the YPG.
Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, stand guard near a check point in the outskirts of the destroyed Syrian town of Kobani in this June 20 photo. A Canadian man arrested in Iraq reportedly had volunteered with the YPG. (Ahmet Sik/Getty Images) 
"They have very good reasons to detain individuals like that. You need to make sure that indeed he is not a guy who fought with Islamic State, you do need to make due diligence on that and for that, we as Canada or the U.S. wouldn’t disagree with that. Beyond that, even if there’s reasonable grounds to believe that his story is true, that he was fighting against IS and not with IS, Iraqi Kurds are still unhappy about him doing that so they’re not going to make it easy for him."
"There’s very good reasons for that request. These guys who go to fight IS with the Kurds, they don’t make a difference on the ground, they don’t positively effect the balance of power and they represent trouble."
Thomas Juneau, assistant professor, University of Ottawa, former Department of Defence Middle East analyst
American authorities have formally requested that Iraqi Kurds not welcome foreign fighters. They view the possibility of having to launch rescue operations when a westerner is taken by ISIL and threats are issued that they will be slaughtered unless certain conditions are met; anything from demands for the release of their own captured fighters or bounty, to buy their release. The YPG, felt to have links with the PKK, Turkey's Kurdistan Worker's Party, has no such scruples and welcomes foreigners willing to fight in their ranks.

The YPG in fact is — and actively recruiting —  encouraging and accepting Western foreign fighters into their ranks to fight alongside regular Kurdish fighters against ISIS, leaving Western countries with the burden of responsibility to provide consular assistance when things go wrong. It is not known why the man was arrested but the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq does not allow Western foreign fighters to use its territory as a base from which to enter Syria.

Relations between the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, controlled by President Masoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party and the Syrian Kurdish factions appear to be strained by rivalry. Iraq's border with Syria has been seen as off limits to Westerners. Foreign fighters returning from Syria have been detained for weeks at a time. An American ex-Marine was arrested in Iraq after three months with the YPG and he and another American were imprisoned in Erbil together with suspected ISIL members.

"Conditions were very bad. We were released because the United States consulate worked very hard with the Asayish [Iraqi Kurdish security agency] in order to clear our names and to prove our innocence to the Barzani government", he explained. A woman from Vancouver once again back fighting with the women's brigade of the Kurdish forces, described the arrested Canadian as a volunteer with the People's Protection Units [YPG], the Syrian Kurdish militia. "Yes, he's YPG", she affirmed.
Courtesy of Hanna Bohman
Courtesy of Hanna Bohman   Hanna Bohman of Vancouver is fighting with Kurdish forces.

In custody along with a Swede, two Spaniards and two Americans, one a doctor, he is awaiting his release. Volunteers like this man are smuggled across the border to enable them to join the Kurdish fighters. It is on their return to Iran intending to continue on home and entering Iraq illegally that the Kurdish government takes them into custody for security reasons, until it can be verified that they are not ISIL sympathizers. A not completely unreasonable explanation, given the numbers of Westerners who have travelled to Syria to fight with Islamic State, and the far fewer numbers who make the trip to fight against Islamic State.

Kurdish fighters fighting against ISIL in Syria, November 2014.
Ahmed Deeb/AFP/Getty Images   Kurdish fighters fighting against ISIL in Syria, November 2014

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