Iraqi Peshmerga fighters say PKK 'hindering' anti-IS battle

Iraqi Peshmerga fighters say PKK 'hindering' anti-IS battle
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces have accused the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) of hindering military operations against the IS in the strategic town of Sinjar, northeast Iraq.
3 min read
05 November, 2015
The PKK has admitted to being present in Sinjar [AFP]

Peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan have accused the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) of hindering military operations against the Islamic State group (IS) in the strategic town of Sinjar, northeast Iraq, on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

"Peshmerga commanders have laid out a plan to liberate Sinjar from the Islamic State group, however that plan has been postponed due to the Kurdistan Workers' Party being present in the area," said Qassem Shasho, a Peshmerga commander in Sinjar.

Shasho told al-Araby al-Jadeed that they had planed to launch an attack to liberate the area at the start of November, however the PKK and its Syrian ally, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) have taken positions in the area, hindering their plans.

The PKK admitted to having a military presence in Sinjar, which one PKK official justified as being due to the refusal of the Peshmerga to cooperate in the liberation of Sinjar.

Mahma Khalil, the mayor of the town of Sinjar accused the PKK of attempting to "ruin the situation of the area for its own purposes," adding, "Peshmerga forces will not allow foreign groups to create trouble".

"The Peshmerga are completely ready to liberate Sinjar, and they are very close to the liberating the area. They are only waiting for the military order," said Jalal Sheikh Ali, a Kurdish political analyst.

"Non-Native political groups are attempting to fabricate political crises, because they want to make Sinjar a base to their illicit activities," added Sheikh Ali.

Peshmerga forces had moved military equipment to the areas around Sinjar at the end of October in preparation for an attack IS positions, and Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government visited the area to oversee preparations.

However, the presence of other Kurdish forces in the area indicates a challenge to Barzani's authority over the area, especially coming from the PKK and PYD who are opponents of the Turkish government, while Barzani is seen to have good relations with Ankara.

PKK fighters along with fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG), which is the military wing of the PYD, had started taking up positions on the Syrian-Iraqi border populated by Kurdish Yazidi after the IS group seized Mosul and Sinjar last June.

The two groups who are known for having good relations with Iran and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are attempting to control the border region to contest the authority of Masoud Barzani, according to analysts.

Analysts also believe that by controlling establishing PKK bases in the Sinjar area, the group which has strong ties to Iran will provide its sponsor will additional political and military leverage against Barzani and Turkey.

Meanwhile, the new bases will relieve some of the pressure that has been mounting against the PKK's stronghold near the Iranian border with Kurdistan, which have been subject to Turkish airstrikes since 24 August.