Peshmerga to ‘Fill in’ for Iraqi Army

By Shaida al-Ameen for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Kurdistan’s Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs said its troops are not attacking armed groups in Iraq, but are just taking defensive positions. It said the speeches of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki do not scare the Kurds, and that the peshmerga forces did not seize weapons of the Iraqi army that was fleeing the battlefields.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Peshmerga Ministry Secretary-General Jabbar Yawar said, “The peshmerga forces are not attacking terrorist groups, and are contenting themselves with taking defensive positions against them, as the distance between us and areas where terrorist groups are present is 1,000 kilometers [620 miles] in length and more than 500-600 kilometers [310-373 miles] in width. Thus, it is difficult to attack them within an area of hundreds of square kilometers.”

In a speech aired on Iraqi media channel Al-Babiliyah on July 2, Maliki rejected the de facto policy that emerged following the Mosul events, and demanded that the Kurds remain committed to the Iraqi Constitution. He threatened to restore areas that the peshmerga forces have controlled during the fall of the Sunni provinces to the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

For his part, while attending a parliament session, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani said on July 3 that the peshmerga forces were present in the disputed areas before the events of Mosul, and there were areas where the peshmerga and the Iraqi army were present. Yet there are other areas that the peshmerga forces have entered to fill the security vacuum caused by the withdrawal of the Iraqi army that was present there. He noted that the peshmerga forces will not withdraw from these areas.

In response to Maliki, Yawar said, “We do not feel any threat coming from Maliki’s speech, and we hope that he will control the deteriorating situation in Iraq. Maliki is placed in a position where he cannot threaten any party, neither the Kurdistan region nor any neighboring country, and he does not have the ability to implement the threat. He would better think about controlling the situation in Mosul, Ramadi and Salahuddin as I think that he does not have an army to pose a threat to anyone.”

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