Khales Joumah writes: Extremist fighters from the group known as the Islamic State have left the Sinjar area the same way they came in during August this year: without any real combat or pitched battles.
“I feel as if I’m watching the same thing I saw five months ago,” says Maizar al-Shammari, standing in front of his house, which is on the road into Sinjar, watching Iraqi Kurdish troops move forward. “At that time the Peshmerga [Iraqi Kurdish forces] withdrew without a fight. Today the Islamic State group is doing the same thing. It’s as if they just decided to swap roles,” he says.
Ever since the Iraqi Kurdish military began to fight with the self-proclaimed Islamic State, widely known as ISIS or ISIL, Sinjar has been an important piece of terrain for all comers in the conflict.
For ISIS it involves a major supply route. For the Iraqi Kurds the Sinjar region holds a lot of what is described as disputed territory—that is, land that is supposedly part of Iraq proper but which the Iraqi Kurds believe should belong to their semi-autonomous zone. They also believe that the Yazidi, an ethno-religious group, that live in Sinjar and have been particularly targeted by ISIS, are Kurds directly related to them.
Meanwhile the international coalition that is fighting against ISIS, mostly by airstrikes, sees the Sinjar area as having strategic importance; if blocked, the potential is there to separate ISIS in Iraq from ISIS in Syria. [Continue reading…]