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Islamic State inciting Arab-Kurdish divide in Iraq

Reports of Ninevah province Arabs fighting with the Islamic State are contributing to anti-Arab sentiments among Iraqi Kurds.
Peshmerga fighters walk on Mosul Dam in northern Iraq August 21, 2014. Iraqi and Kurdish forces recaptured Iraq's biggest dam from Islamist militants with the help of U.S. air strikes to secure a vital strategic objective in fighting that threatens to break up the country, Kurdish and U.S. officials said on Monday.  REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR438VW
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Targeted US military strikes in coordination with Baghdad and Erbil have helped push back the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq’s Mosul area, at least for now. This military aid coincides with attempts to choke the extremist group’s revenue sources and create a political system that reconciles Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. These efforts are complicated by the very nature of the IS threat in Iraq, which is a reaction by Sunni Arabs not only to former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's sectarian policies, but also to the entire post-2003 order. This includes territorial and resource claims made by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in disputed areas. Stabilizing Iraq in the face of IS will ultimately require a deal not only between Baghdad and Erbil, but also among Iraqi Arab, Kurdish and other minority group leaders over boundaries and the revenues and resources linked to them.

Embedded within IS are former Baathist military officers, Ansar al-Sunnah, Jihad and Reform Front groups, Jash al-Islam and other radical factions. While these alliances are unlikely to revive pan-Arab nationalism or be sustained by the divided Sunni Arab community, they reflect a broader revival of the insurgent Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi (JRTN) and its weddedness to Islam, Arab nationalism and Iraqi territory. IS has explained its takeover of some Kurdish regions as part of its desire for land it claims to be part of its proclaimed caliphate, and it described its recent offensives in Sinjar and Jalalwa as efforts to take back disputed territories that the KRG has controlled since 2003 and which it contends is “not a part of the Kurdistan region.”

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