Sunday’s attack against the Asayish building in Erbil was not a normal terrorist operation. It serves as a reminder of the threats against the Kurdistan Region and its establishments. The operation carries many clues to the nature of the threat, and a simple reading shows that the attack has two aspects, one internal and the other external.
The preparations for such an operation, the number of weapons and explosives used and the knowledge of the area all hint at a strong local organization: The planners had enough time and space to bring in the instruments and prepare for the attack.
Even these rudimentary observations show that the attack could not have been carried out by external elements only. There is an internal human element that contributed to this attack and which needs to be tackled by the security and political personnel.
Although the sense of unity amongst the public was strengthened by the attack, it takes only a small minority to disturb or derail a country. But the present feeling of unity can be used to conduct a national awareness campaign to pre-empt such acts. This can be done by creating the right awareness amongst the public through fighting ignorance and hate.
As for the external factors, there are three different explanations for the attack — despite the initial declaration of responsibility by the Islamic State of Iraq. Three different analyses for the attack are being discussed by analysts.
Some see the attack as a natural extension of the violence in the centre and south of Iraq, believing that the violence of Kirkuk and Mosul has managed to reach Erbil. Others believe that the war in next-door Syria – where extremist Islamic groups like the al-Nusrah Front are involved — has reached the Kurdistan Region.
A third explanation is based on a New Yorker magazine article last week that talked about the commander of the Iranian Quds brigade Qasim Solaimani asking the Kurds to grant him access to move weapons to Syria, which Erbil reportedly refused.
All three analyses are quite plausible. They indicate the great challenge that lies ahead for the next government and the Kurdish leadership to defuse the sources of external threats, fight terrorism and radicalism and engage the public in the fight.
The irony is that the attack happened one day after announcing the results of Kurdistan’s legislative elections. Perhaps this incident can push the formation of the next government into one that is broad-based and built on consensus and national unity, rather than one that strengthens only one party and uses the fight against terrorism or vows of protecting Kurdistan as an excuse to take the lion’s share in the next government.
After all, protecting Kurdistan and fighting radicalism and terrorism are duties for all.