Until Sunday, 29 September, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) has not seen an attack of the kind that plagues the rest of Iraq on a daily basis since 2007.
A series of attacks in the capital Erbil most likely indicate that the conflict in Syria has now spread into Kurdistan. On 29 September, as yet unidentified militants launched a series of attacks in Erbil on the Kurdish security services (Asayish) headquarters. A suicide bomber detonated explosives at the entrance to the Asayish headquarters, which was followed by a shoot-out between Asayish forces and four militants. This scenario was then followed by the remote detonation of an ambulance by a fifth militant. All six militants were killed in the attacks and clashes, along with six Asayish forces. Some 60 other people were wounded throughout the course of the violence.
(The KRG’s security apparatus, the Asayish, operates with a similar mandate to the US FBI, with jurisdiction over economic and political crimes, but operates fairly strictly along party lines.)
For the Kurds of Syria, the conflict in Syria is extremely complex. A number of Kurdish fighting brigades had earlier joined under a single umbrella to fight alongside the rebels and the jihadists against the Assad regime—though they have since found themselves taking up arms against the jihadists. However, the most influential Kurdish group in Syria, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has its own Asayish security forces, has remained staunchly opposed to the foreign fighters—most particularly the Iraqi offshoot of jihadists in the form of the al-Nusra front.
Many Syrian Kurds had hedged their bets that the Syrian rebels would deal with them on secession, but the uncertainty kept the Kurds non-committal. Over the past weeks, fighting between Syrian Kurds and radical Sunni forces has picked up momentum. Now even the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels have turned on the Kurds with an offensive to push them back. The Kurdish National Council, parts of which had earlier supported the FSA and even fought alongside it, is now favoring the Assad regime over the extremists, adhering to the PYD’s sentiment. Al-Nusra may now be taking its fight with the Kurds across the border into Northern Iraq, targeting Asayish there.
In August, Kurdish forces clashed with jihadists who were trying to open up a land corridor to connect them to Iraq. This fighting led to a flood of Syrian Kurdish refugees across…