BARCELONA, Spain – Italy is bolstering its role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), helping Iraq and the Kurdistan Region contain the radical group that poses a global threat.
“I think Italy is providing and could provide an important contribution to benefit the local Kurdish security forces, which are on the frontline of the fight against terrorism,” Carmelo Ficarra, the head of the Italian Consular Office in Erbil, told Rudaw in an interview.
Francesca Manenti, an analyst at the Rome-based Centro StudiInternazionali (Ce.S.I), also noted the strategic role the Kurdistan Region is playing in the war against the insurgents.
“Any advance of the Islamic State in the autonomous Kurdistan Region would, no doubt, seriously damage not only Western countries but the entire international community, which unanimously recognizes the danger of strengthening the jihadist group in the Middle East,” she said.
“The loss of Iraqi Kurdistan would represent a major setback to the strategy to combat the Islamic State and would remove an actor whose political and economic role is absolutely strategic within the region,” Manenti told Rudaw.
Iraqi media reported this month that Italy has dispatched three reconnaissance planes to assist Iraqi forces detect ISIS sites in the vast territory the militant group occupies in the country. Rome has also provided the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces with more weapons and training.
“Italy has made an important political commitment towards the Kurdistan Regional Government,” said Ficarra.
He pointed to the three-day spree of attacks in Paris earlier this month, saying that “showed that terrorism has international ramifications that cannot be neglected.” He said that “the collective effort to counteract them constitutes an important instrument to prevent and avoid similar acts taking place again.”
Since an international initiative was put in place to help Kurdish fighters in the war with ISIS, several European countries have provided arms and training for the Peshmerga.
Italy has contributed small arms and anti-tank ammunition and systems, Browning machine guns, Mg 42/59 machine guns and other equipment.
The Italian Air Force has carried out dozens of flights to deliver humanitarian aid to the Kurdistan Region, which is reeling under the weight of some 1.4 million refugees and displaced people who have fled the war in Syria and violence in other parts of Iraq.
The Italian Defence Ministry is also engaged in training local security forces. Peshmerga officers have gone to Italy for training, and specialized trainers have been sent by Rome to train Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Region, according to Ficarra.
Italy’s commitment to the KRG was also demonstrated last August, when Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Baghdad and Erbil – among the first world leaders to do so after ISIS took control of wide parts of Iraq in June.
Manenti also pointed out that the Kurdish authorities are a “political and economic actor of fundamental importance in the Middle East.”
“At this time in particular, Kurds in Syria and Iraq are showing great courage in opposing the advance of the Islamic State and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan is considered by the international community as one of the key players on which to rely in this current crisis,” said Manenti.
“The choice of our government resides in the knowledge that the preparation of local security forces is critical not only to counter the advance of the Islamic State now, but especially to ensure security in the autonomous region in a possible post-crisis scenario,” she added.