Kurdish forces have apparently repelled an attempted assault by ISIS forces to seize Iraq’s largest hydro-electric dam. While earlier reports indicated that ISIS had managed to seize control of the facility, the dam’s director has dispelled this, stating that ISIS forces were pushed back after gaining access to a nearby housing compound.
When ISIS rebels poured into Iraq from Syria, they were able to quickly defeat the central government’s armies, driving them back towards Baghdad. While the retreat may have been partially for political reasons as ISIS was seizing Sunni areas while the central government, dominated by Shias, cares more about its own Shia regions, the loss was none-the-less stunning, especially in the eyes of the international community.
Kurdistan Coming Under Increasing Fire
Out of all of this, the Kurds in North Eastern Iraq have thus far proven to be the most resilient and battle ready fighting force. When ISIS forces invaded Iraq they largely steered away from Kurdish controlled regions, and with good reason. Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces are among the best trained and most well-equipped in the Middle East.
While ISIS forces had been avoiding any major confrontations with Kurdish forces, the organization may be shifting its focus. Forces loyal to the central Shia government have finally dug in and stopped advances towards Baghdad.
With the road to the capital blocked, the wide and porous borders of Kurdistan may be the softer target. While the Peshmerga are perhaps the best fighting force within Iraq, they have a huge territory and huge border to protect.
Kurdish Forces Expanding Fight Against ISIS
Besides defending the dam, Kurdish forces have also been expanding their attacks against ISIS forces, though so far appear content to limit their activities to actions carried out in perceived Kurdish regions. Of course, given that Kurds populate much of northern Iraq and Syria, the potential battle ground could be huge.
The Peshmerga -as Kurdistan’s military is called- launched an aggressive campaign to retake the small town of Sinjar, once home to numerous Kurds who were forced to flee. Reports have indicated that fighting thus far has been fierce, with combatants fighting house-to-house. Apparently, both sides have been using heavy weaponry and are digging in for a long battle.
Meanwhile, at the border town of Rabia, Kurdish forces from Syria have also joined in with Iraq’s Peshmerga to fight the radical militants. With tensions ramping up, this could be the prelude to another period of intense fighting, this time between Kurdish forces and ISIS, rather than the central Shia government.