Kurdish Iraqi soldiers are deserting to avoid the conflict in Baghdad
By Leila Fadel and Yaseen Taha
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq – As the Iraqi government attempts to secure a capital city ravaged by conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs, its decision to bring a third party into the mix may cause more problems than peace.
Kurdish soldiers from northern Iraq, who are mostly Sunnis but not Arabs, are deserting the army to avoid the civil war in Baghdad, a conflict they consider someone else’s problem.
The Iraqi army brigades being sent to the capital are filled with former members of a Kurdish militia, the peshmerga, and most of the soldiers remain loyal to the militia.
Much as Shiite militias have infiltrated the Iraqi security forces across Arab Iraq, the peshmerga fill the ranks of the Iraqi army in the Kurdish region in the north, poised to secure a semi-independent Kurdistan and seize oil-rich Kirkuk and parts of Mosul if Iraq falls apart. One thing they didn’t bank on, they said, was being sent into the “fire” of Baghdad.
“The soldiers don’t know the Arabic language, the Arab tradition, and they don’t have any experience fighting terror,” said Anwar Dolani, a former peshmerga commander who leads the brigade that’s being transferred to Baghdad from the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.
Dolani called the desertions a “phenomenon” but refused to say how many soldiers have left the army.
“I can’t deny that a number of soldiers have deserted the army, and it might increase due to the ferocious military operations in Baghdad,” he said.
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