By Erin Rodewald // July 12, 2017
(This article originally appeared at Philos Project)
It was three years ago – July 4, 2014 – that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood in the pulpit of the Al Nuri Grand Mosque in Mosul to declare the creation of an Islamic State caliphate. What followed has been a brutal campaign of blood and destruction across Iraq and Syria.
Today, the caliphate is crumbling – at least geographically. Iraqi and coalition forces have recaptured Mosul and what is left of the Grand Mosque. In Syria, the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have all but liberated the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.
To be sure, the victories against ISIS belong to many, but at the heart of some of the fiercest fighting has been one steadfast group: the Kurds, a diverse and dispersed people with no sovereign state but a pervasive presence in the Middle East. In Iraq, the Kurds have functioned as a semi-autonomous state since the end of the first Gulf War. In Turkey, a large Kurdish faction has been branded as terrorists. In Syria, Kurdish militias have been key players in the fight against the Islamic State.
The Kurds have introduced both stability and tension to a geopolitically delicate Middle East.