Peshmerga to give weapons to Iraq's communities under fire

Peshmerga to give weapons to Iraq's communities under fire
Kurdish Peshmerga troops say that they will arm minorities in disputed areas of Iraq in order to tackle IS, but Baghdad remains sceptical.
2 min read
24 January, 2016
Peshmerga forces have seen military successes against IS in areas of Mosul [Anadolu]
In a proposed attempt to tackle the Islamic State group, Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government has said it was seeking to arm minority groups in disputed areas of Iraq, to bring them under the banner of the Peshmerga.

"The Ministry of Peshmerga has finally implemented a programme to train and arm minorities living in the Nineveh plains," Ribawar Hassan, the leader of the Patriotic Union for Kurdistan, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"The ministry has set up training courses for them. The first will train 600 Christian fighters," he said. "There was also be several other regiments formed including the Shabak people and the Yazidis."

He said that fighters would be responsible for providing protection to areas that may be exposed to "terrorist" attacks, and will be directly associated with the Peshmerga ministry.

"They will receive monthly salaries from the ministry and receive full privileges granted to the Peshmerga," said Hassan.

"The ministry has a comprehensive plan to arm all minorities and attach them to the Peshmerga if they wish," he said. "This step comes as part of the war against IS and protecting the citizens of the country from horrific attacks."

Hundreds from minority groups have already reportedly volunteered for the Peshmerga force.

Hassan said that the fighters would not operate outside the "framework of the state" but will become "regular forces" under the law of the ministry.

However, others remain sceptical, with the government in Baghdad accusing the Kurdish government of working to take over disputed areas.

"The Kurdistan region is trying to exploit the government's preoccupation with the war against IS in Anbar and Salahuddin," Hassan al-Zaidi, a member of the Iraqi parliament for the National Alliance, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Zaidi said that if the Peshmerga were serious about defending Iraq and its people, they would have fought alongside Iraqi forces in Anbar and Salahuddin in their fight against IS, instead of fighting in areas he says the Peshmerga have expansionist ambitions – such as Sinjar, the Nineveh plains and certain areas of Kirkuk.

"The arming of minorities in these territories is part of their plan to control these areas and win people over from these groups," he said.

"The Peshmerga government is taking an opportunity to carry out their ambitions and split the country while the region and Iraqi forces are preoccupied," said Zaidi.

The Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG) is seeking to establish a de-facto Kurdish state with international support, in preparation for a referendum on independence next year.