Tension Easing after Standoff between Peshmerga and Iraqi Troops in Dibis

28/11/2012 RUDAW By NAWZAD MAHMOOD – SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region—Tensions are beginning to ease after a week-long standoff between Peshmerga forces and Iraqi troops in the disputed territories of Diyala and Kirkuk. However, heavy weaponry and forces still remain in the area.

After the 2003 liberation of Iraq, tensions have broken out several times between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces while Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been in power. The latest flare up led to a one-hour clash between the two sides in the town of Dibis.  Burhan Rashid, an MP from the Change Movement (Gorran) in Kurdish Parliament, expressed doubts about Maliki’s recent message to Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani regarding the formation of the joint forces both sides agreed to in 2009.

“This is a desperate call. Maliki won’t hesitate to carry out this war, as soon as he knows for sure that he can defeat the Peshmerga,” Rashid said. “The Kurdish authorities must insist on dissolving the Dijla Operations Command and shouldn’t allow it to enter the Kurdish areas.”  “More than 200,000 Iraqi troops have been sent to the front line with the Peshmerga, along with heavy weaponry that the government obtained after 2003,” Rashid told Rudaw.

“According to Article 9 of the Iraqi constitution, Maliki’s actions — moving the army for in response to a domestic political dispute — are illegal,” he said, adding that appointing military commanders is another illegal action by Maliki. Fazil Basharati, a member of the Peshmerga committee in Kurdish Parliament, believes that sooner or later war will break out between the Peshmerga and Iraqi troops and that that will be the only way to settle the issue of the disputed territories. “The sooner we go to war, the better,” Basharati said. “The Peshmerga have the same capacity as the Iraqi military in the disputed territories.”  Basharati described the situation on the front line as “very tense.” However, Shalal Abdul, the mayor of Dibis, said that the situation is now “normal.”

“There are a large number of Iraqi forces with 140 tanks in the area, but they have not entered the town,” Abdul said. 

Abdul said that it is less likely clashes will break out since a large number of Peshmerga forces are in the area and can control the situation in just two hours.Shwan Taha, a member of the interior and security committee in Iraqi Parliament, dismissed allegations that Kurdish members of his committee have been silent about Maliki’s actions. “Maliki doesn’t care about parliament’s demands nor does he care about being held accountable to them,” he said.

Taha said that he and Hassan Jihad, another Kurdish MP, boycotted the committee’s meeting after everyone else approved Maliki’s actions and the way he handled the situation. The disputed territories include the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala and Nineveh. So far, the situation has been calm in Nineveh province, while it is a different story in Kirkuk and Diyala.A security source from Khanaqin told Rudaw that, after Peshmerga forces gathered in the area, the Iraqi government sent in a battalion with heavy weaponry. Peshmerga officials in the area told Rudaw that so far, no suspicious activity has been detected and their forces will stay as long as they are needed.  Since the beginning of the recent events, groups of people from the Kurdistan Region have been visiting Peshmerga on the front lines and expressing their support on social network sites. Abdulla Jabar posted on Facebook that he is “ready to go fight along with the Peshmerga.”