Syrian Kurds receive military training in Kurdish region

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By Khaula al-Ukaili

Azzaman, October 23, 2012

Iraqi Kurds have provided military training to Syrian Kurdish rebels in the months since the start of the Syrian rebellion in March 2011, according to a senior Iraqi Kurdish official.

The official, Mohammed Othman, claimed the training covered the Syrian Kurds who had left their areas and sought refuge in Iraq.

Othman is the most senior Kurdish deputy in the Iraqi parliament and a confident of Massoud Barzani, the head of the semi-Kurdish region in Iraq.

The admission is the first by a top Kurdish official in Iraq and is likely to raise concerns in Turkey, which is closely monitoring the situation in Syria. Turkey has openly sided with the rebels fighting the government of the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The move is also certain to anger Baghdad, which is reported to be assisting Assad.

Turkey already has problems with its own Kurds. There are more than 25 million Kurds in Turkey and many of them are struggling to gain a semi-independent status like their Kurdish compatriots in Iraq.

But Othman said the provision of military training to Syrian Kurds was done specifically to help them administer their areas as the Syrian administration had been withdrawn from region.

“The training was not done for the purposes of participation in the ongoing fighting in Syria,” Othman added.

Iraqi authorities say the training was assisted by Turkish authorities and covered the Syrian Kurds not associated with the national aspirations of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria.

The Security Commission at the Iraqi parliament has described the training as “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and institution, which call for non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”