Witnesses — including a half-dozen aid workers, a European diplomat, and a terrified resident of the affected area — say the Kurdish Peshmerga, the military force of Iraqi Kurdistan, has an agenda that goes beyond fighting the Islamic State: establishing the boundaries of a future Kurdish state and moving the Arabs out.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has been edging away from Baghdad for years, as KRG officials leverage their region’s relative stability and oil wealth into greater autonomy. Baghdad has played its own part by withholding the KRG’s share of Iraq’s national budget and dragging out negotiations over oil sales.
The KRG has also parlayed its lead role in the fight against the Islamic State into advancing its greatest cause: an independent Kurdistan. The same is happening in Syria, as the Syrian Kurdish militias there beat back the jihadi group and flex their power over a vastly weakened Syrian state.