Monday, March 30, 2015

Envisioning Post-Conflict Security For The Yazidis

The Yazidi minority in Iraq and Syria has it rough.  ISIL has spent the past year driving Yazidis from their homes and enslaving them.  The international community has work to do after it eventually defeats ISIS.  The Yazidis and other minorities will need repatriation to their homes and permanent security that they cannot achieve on their own.

The national government of Iraq has failed its R2P responsibilities towards the Yazidis, just as it failed the Iranian exiles within its borders.  Iraq's hastily reconstituted army is unable to make significant progress against ISIS without help from the US and other stable nations.  The weakness of Iraq's Shiite-led government and military in the face of ISIS will persist long after the US and its allies vanquish ISIS . . . and that victory may be a long time in coming.

The international community is doing what Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis are incapable of doing for Yazidis.  UNHCR has provided emergency shelter for Yazidi refugees since the Mount Sinjar siege in August 2014.  Estimating need starts with an estimate of population size.  Pew Research's Fact Tank discussed several Yazidi population estimates in August 2014.  Third Eye OSINT judges the straight extrapolation from the Iraqi 1965 census to be the most accurate number.  Consider that Saddam Hussein's Arabization repression of ethnic Kurds would have suppressed any excess fecundity that less literate groups possess.  Statistics have a logic all their own.  The least reliable numbers are the most recent self-reported stats the Yazidis fed to the US State Department.  Diplomats are normally not experienced statisticians.  Self-reported numbers that are far higher than what normal statistical progression should indicate are very likely artificially inflated.  Deliberately driving numbers higher feeds a political agenda for more aid spending.

The Yezidis are also spread among several Transcaucasus nations.  Georgia is increasingly under Russian dominance.  Armenia and Azerbaijan have not resolved their tension over disputed territory.  None of those states strongly favor the rights of ethnic minorities.  Yazidis in the Transcaucasus seeking a better life will not migrate to Iraq or Syria while ISIS threatens their kin.  Migration to Western Europe exposes them to wealth creation that they otherwise cannot access.  The international community should leverage Westernized Yazidi expatriates as a leadership cadre for a post-conflict Iraq and Syria.  These leaders will be trustworthy if they refrain from inflating their population numbers as a way to extort more Western aid.

The straightforward military solution to ISIS is obvious to serious strategists.  One division-sized ground combat formation, with at least one fighter wing of air support, could drive west from Sadr City all the way to ISIS's de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria.  One month of solid combat would disperse the tens of thousands of drug-crazed jihadi opportunists adhering to ISIS for romantic adventures in theological purity.  The West's political leaders are unwilling to sell this prospective victory to their electorates.  Lack of political will to win leaves Iraq and its neighbors with a festering sore in Mesopotamia.  Yezidis will remain homeless in the meantime.