Tug-of-war for recaptured territory between 'allies' in Iraq

Tug-of-war for recaptured territory between 'allies' in Iraq
As the Kurdish Peshmerga enter territory captured from the Islamic State group, the Iraqi government is looking to wrest control of areas it fears will be annexed to the autonomous northern region.
2 min read
21 March, 2015
Villages in northern Iraq have been devastated in fighting between the peshmerga and IS [Getty]
Iraqi government forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga are reportedly at loggerheads over who will control parts of northern Iraq liberated from the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis).

It is alleged that the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil wants to annex the territory, which is home to a large number of Kurds.

Baghdad sees this as a breach of the constitution.

Land grab

The accusations have come from a number of leading Iraqi officials, including Abbas al-Khuzai, a member of the parliamentary security and defence committee.

"The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Ministry of Peshmerga want to annex the liberated areas, or the areas that will be liberated in the future, to the KRG," the official told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Khuzai claimed that Peshmerga forces had prevented Arab families who fled the fighting from returning home.

Displaced Kurds, meanwhile, have reportedly been allowed back to their towns and villages.

Khuzai said the KRG had also placed restrictions on Arabs in Mosul, Diyala, and Kirkuk.

The Iraqi lawmaker called on Baghdad to take a firm stance against these alleged "attempts to alter the demography of northern Iraq".

Central control
     The fact that Peshmerga forces liberated areas does not mean these are by default part of the KRG now.
-Abdul-Kareem Abtan MP

The National Coalition, led by Vice-President Iyad Allawi, voiced similar concerns. The alliance has rejected the alleged enlargement of Kurdish territory.

"The fact that Peshmerga forces liberated areas controlled by IS does not mean these are by default part of the KRG now," said Abdel-Kareem Abtan, an MP with the coalition.

Abtan called on Peshmerga forces to work for the whole of Iraq, not just Erbil.

"There are steps being taken in parliament to issue a statement demanding that Peshmerga forces withdraw from the liberated areas, after security is handed over to the Iraqi forces and tribes," he explained.

Similar accusations of a land grab by the Kurds have been made before. 

In January, Ahmad al-Jubouri, minister of state for provincial affairs, accused the Kurdish forces of destroying 700 homes northeast of Baquba in Diyala province after re-capturing the territory.

Mahmoud Othman, a leader in the Kurdistan Alliance, responded that the issue of Kurdish and Peshmerga forces in the "disputed" areas would be settled only after IS was completely eliminated.

However, he also predicted that the dispute between Erbil and Baghdad over the contested regions would resurface in the future.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.