Mysterious US strike in Irbil Condemned by Kurds
The US military appears to have become convinced that Ansar al-Sunnah, a breakaway group from the largely Kurdish terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, has been operating from dormitories at the Salahuddin University in the Kurdish stronghold of Irbil. US special forces accompanied by Kurdish fighters and helicopter gunships struck at the dormitory on Wednesday evening. There are rumors that the US captured a senior Ansar al-Islam leader. Seven persons were injured in the attack, and a number were captured.
The odd thing is that Irbil is under the control of Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, a close ally of the United States. If the US wanted something done in Irbil, why wouldn’t it just ask Barzani’s peshmerga or paramilitary to do it? Had Ansar al-Islam terrified or bribed local Irbil officials into ignoring the AI cell in the city?
Some reports say the US was accompanied by Kurdish commandoes. But they weren’t local peshmerga from Irbil.
Kurdistan Interior Minister Kerim Sinjari condemned the operation. Al-Zaman says he complained that several innocent civilians were killed by US forces in the course of it, including one woman. He said that such actions could jeopardize Kurdistan-US relations.
US news outlets continually blame Saddam for Ansar al-Islam, consisting of a few hundred Kurdish guerrillas, some of whom had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. In fact, however, they operated from the de facto no-fly zone that was under US control, not that of Saddam.
South Korea’s troops are stationed in the north, which may have contributed to the urgency of the US operation.
In my view, the threat of a serious conflict between the Kurdish paramilitary and the US is imminent. Once a new government is elected, if it can be, it may take decisions that the Kurds don’t like. The US will then have a choice of supporting the Kurds or the government it itself had formed.