With the soup sandwich that is the conflict in Syria ramping up, no one seems to be watching the ISIS presence in Iraq get snuffed out. The Iraqi government is watching however and they have a close eye on where their borders currently are. Their message to the Kurds was very clear last month; return the land Peshmerga occupies to Iraq or prepare for war. It still remains to be seen if they have the tenacity to back up their threats with force at this stage though.
In mid-August a Shia Iraqi MP named Mohammed Saihoud stated, “If Peshmerga forces do not retreat from the liberated areas, they will be considered as occupiers, not liberators.” And, “IS and Peshmerga forces are equal before the gunfire of the Iraqi security forces and Hashd al-Shaabi if they insist on the occupation of the liberated areas.”
A Kurdish Regional Government spokesman responded to the MP bluntly by insisting that Peshmerga forces will not advance any further towards Mosul specifically but that, “The areas were liberated by the blood of the Peshmerga forces. Peshmerga will not retreat.”
So for now there appears to be an understanding between the two powerhouses of the region but the big question is, will that maintain after ISIS has been completely removed from the playing field? More than likely we will see clashes with Hashd al-Shabi, also known as Shia Militia, forces and Peshmerga before anything takes place between the two governments. However as soon as that happens it is likely the Iraqi Government will step in as they have backed and armed the Shia Militia as a proxy force to combat ISIS.
Tensions reached a breaking point in May 2016 when Shia Militia opened fire on a Peshmerga unit who responded accordingly. Shortly after the fact an understanding was reached and no clashes have occurred since. The Peshmerga is stronger than it has been in a long time and will not back down from either Hashd al-Shabi or the Iraqi Army without a fight.
To add to the situation, around the same time, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner made the bold statement that, “I think it’s absolutely important, and we’ve emphasized this all along, that the Peshmerga and all the various fighting groups in Iraq need to be under the command and control of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi military.” He followed on with, “There needs to be that coordination mechanism. But we certainly recognize, and we’ve said so many times, the vital role that these groups, including the Peshmerga, play and have played thus far and showed tremendous courage in liberating parts of Iraq that have been under the control of ISIL.”
Of course the Ministry of Peshmerga responded with the official statement that, “The Peshmerga is not under the command or control of the Iraqi government. According to the Iraqi constitution, the Peshmerga is part of Iraq’s defense system, but the Iraqi government has not supplied the Peshmerga with weapons or military training and they have not taken any responsibilities towards the Peshmerga.”
So essentially the KRG has told everyone to go fuck themselves and to be honest they are not about to give up their territory, power or control to anyone ever again. All you have to do is look at Kurdish history to understand their position in this matter. Only time will tell.
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