Mountainous Terrain & the Kurdish Region
The mountainous geography of the Kurdistan Region (KR) has proven positive and negative for the political and economic development of the KR. In one respect the well known phrase “the mountains are a Kurds only friend” is true however, for a full spectrum analysis the disadvantages are also noteworthy.
- The mountainous landscape of the KR has sheltered the Kurdish factions from Turkey, Iraq, and Iran against host governments in the most difficult of circumstances. The mountains have served as a staging area for Kurdish armed factions as well as a refuge for the Kurdish civilian population. This is particularly true in the tri-border region of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran were roads are rare and host militaries cannot enter easily.
- The Kurds have a geographic intelligence advantage over foes in the mountainous terrain. Every mountain is different, there are no mountains that have the exact same features on the face of the earth. Given that the Kurds know the terrain better than any invading force, Kurds possess a distinct home-field advantage.
- The heights of the Kurdish Region also provide environmental advantages. Winter often brings frozen conditions allowing for excellent water sources as the winter ice melts. That said, water is seasonally trapped in lakes such as Lake Dukan providing a fresh water source for the Kurdish populous.
- Finally, the mountainous region of the KR possess tourism potential that has yet to be known. Although in recent years the KR has witnessed an overall increase in tourism, particularly in Iraq, an unstable Middle East has prevented the dormant tourism industry.
- The mountains that protect Kurdish factions have simultaneously aided the prevention of Kurdish armed factions from developing into unified military units capable of long term non-mountainous warfare. Armed factions based out of the mountainous region are frequently separated by geographic features and at times compete for resources. Additionally, Kurdish forces have rarely left the Kurdish region to conduct warfare. Such groups have become accustomed to the mountain terrain are now re-training for new types of warfare.
- Next, the mountains of the KR inhibit Kurdish logistical development. Moving industrial goods or military goods from one the Kurdish region to another is a slower and more complicated process due to the mountainous terrain. Slow moving convoys have made target for border crossing guards of Turkey and Iran. This is highlighted by the 2013 attack on the Kurdish smuggling convoy crossing from Iraq to Turkey.The roads of the mountainous region are smaller, less available, and poorly maintained in comparison with those outside of the mountains. Finally, snowy conditions make a number of mountain passes in the Kurdistan region nearly unnavigable to heavy traffic in the winter months. Mountainous terrain is a challenge to the Kurdish economy, particularly among the various countries of the KR.