MESOP FOCUS : PKK Not Needed in Sinjar – Peshmerga Official

ERBIL — 21 Apr 2016 – In an exclusive interview, General Secretary for the Peshmerga Ministry Jabar Yawar has reiterated that Peshmergas are in need of immediate military assistance while they are, most effectively, fighting against the Islamic State (IS). He also explains that PKK and the Shi’ite militias are no longer needed in Sinjar and other Kurdistan Region territories.

BasNews: Any progress in unifying Peshmerga units?

Yawar: The process is continuing, however, due to the on-going war against the Islamic State (IS) and the crisis faced by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), it has been decelerated. We cannot withdraw the Peshmerga forces from the frontline in order to train, equip and unify them. The plan also requires funds and specific budget and KRG cannot afford it at the moment.

Despite all these issues, we have been able to unify 14 Peshmerga brigades which are now deployed to the frontline  to fight in the war against IS.

BasNews: How much Kurdish territories are yet under the control of IS?

Yawar: IS militants are currently in control of only 2-3% of Kurdistan Region territories, and these areas are mostly located near Sinjar, Mosul and Bashiqa. The rest have already been liberated by the Peshmerga forces.

BasNews: A top Peshmerga delegation was scheduled to visit the United States, any progression about the trip?

Yawar: A delegation, consisting of senior Peshmerga officials, was planning to visit Washington DC and discuss  about US support for Peshmerga forces, but the timeline was not yet set. However, a senior KRG delegation is now in the US and they are working to gain further military and financial assistance for Peshmerga.

Thus far, any military shipment for KRG goes through Baghdad and the Kurdish delegation is demanding greater direct assistance from the US.

BasNews: The forces outside the control of Peshmerga ministry, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Shi’ite militia Hashd al-Shaabi for instance, are stationed in parts of the Kurdish areas. How long are they going to stay?

Yawar: PKK allegedly had stationed some forces near Sinjar in the Kurdistan Region territories; but they have reportedly withdrew their forces as they are now concentrating on the Turkish Kurdistan. PKK, in deed, is not needed in Sinjar as the Yazidis have established their own forces to defend their areas.

Concerning the Shi’ite militias, they are mostly present in Tuz Khurmatu as the area connects the Kurdistan Region and other [Shi’te Arab] areas [in central Iraq]. Since the Shi’ite militias are not familiar with the military principles, they sometimes cause tensions which the joint committees try to solve immediately.

BasNews: Is there any agreement between KRG and the members of the International Coalition who is sending military assistance to Peshmerga? What does KRG offer them in return?

Yawar: Since the Kurdistan Region is a member of the International Coalition fighting IS, other members are aiding the Peshmerga forces without having a prior agreement.

BasNews: After IS used chemical weapons against Peshmerga recently, the coalition members promised to deliver special equipment to protect the Kurdish forces against such offensives, have you received any such shipment?

Yawar: They sent small shipments of medicine, clothing and gas masks, but it was not sufficient. The coalition and the Iraqi government have both pledged to deliver more equipment to protect Peshmerga against chemical weapons.

BasNews: What about the operation to liberate Mosul and the participation of Peshmerga forces?

Yawar: It has previously been declared that Peshmerga will take part in the operation because we are part of the international coalition fighting against IS and the prolonged presence of IS in Mosul can pose threat to the Kurdistan Region. We also participated in the anti-IS battles in Kobani.However, there must be a comprehensive plan on how much Peshmerga will contribute to the battle in Mosul, and what will be the future of the city: who will rule and protect it!

The Peshmerga forces will take responsibility to protect the Kurdish areas, Sinjar, Zummar and Bashiqa, after the liberation of Mosul; but protecting the city itself will be on the Iraqi army alone.

BasNew: Most of the disputed areas are now under the control of the Peshmerga forces, does it mean that article 140 from the Iraqi constitution has already ended and Kurds are not going to withdraw from these areas?

Yawar: These areas will be included in the anticipated referendum on Kurdish independence in the near future, and they will remain under the control of Kurdistan Region if their people will vote in favor of being attached to KRG. But whenever we will declare independence and set our borders in coordination with the international community, theses areas will be officially taken under KRG’s authority.