Kurds Seize Control of Border Crossing

By Wladimir van Wilgenburg for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces have seized most of the borders that divide the landlocked Kurds between Iraq and Syria, with increasing public support from both sides of the border. ]Kurds in several cities in Syria rallied in support of the Kurdish fighters that are engaging the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) both in Syria and Iraq, but unity between rival Kurdish parties is no guarantee.

Peshmerga forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani secured most of the Iraqi-Syrian border areas of the province of Mosul on June 10 after the fall of the city to ISIS.

Importantly, they have secured most areas surrounding the previously Iraqi-controlled Rabia-Yaroubia border crossing. The Yaroubia crossing was captured by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in October 2013 in cooperation with the Iraqi government to circumvent the Turkish and KDP border closures between Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Conflicting reports suggest the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the PYD, are still occupying the Iraqi side of the border crossing, with peshmerga fighters asking them to leave. Hashim Sitey, the local peshmerga commander in Rabia, told KDP-affiliated Rudaw on June 16 that they tried to ask YPG forces to surrender the crossing, but that they have so far refused.

Local authorities in Dahuk refused Al-Monitor permission to go to Rabia, citing security threats.

Many Kurds are dissatisfied with the ongoing power struggle between the PKK and Barzani’s KDP over power-sharing in Syria. Syrian Kurdish parties affiliated to the KDP have refused to recognize the newly established canton administrations by the PYD.

The KDP closed the Semalka border in October 2013 to pressure the PKK to share power with KDP-backed parties in Syria. The PYD now fears that the KDP will use its new gains to further pressure the PYD and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to fully open the Semalka border crossing.

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