Peshmerga ‘Ready’ to Advance on IS

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

The military conflict between the peshmerga and the Islamic State has run hot since 2014 but is currently at somewhat of a standstill. The fighting is less frequent and intense than in prior months throughout the front in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, due to pressure from both the central government in Baghdad and the United States and its allies.

The two are demanding the peshmerga forces hold off on moving up on the front until an impending Iraqi government-led offensive is ready to come to fruition, according to Peshmerga sources.

At present, fighting between peshmerga forces and IS continues throughout Iraqi Kurdistan. “We have a line 1,050 kilometers [642 miles] in length. There is fighting along this line. [During the week of July 27] IS advanced, but the peshmerga repelled them,” Brig. Gen. Helgurd Hikmet Mela Ali told Al-Monitor in his Erbil office. Ali, the general director of the Ministry of Peshmerga-General Directorate of Media went on, “There is fire back and forth, but now it is calm; there isn’t fierce fighting.”

On the front line near Duhok, Brig. Gen. Mara’an echoed this sentiment. “Some days there is fighting, i.e., mortar and tank fire,” he said. During Al-Monitor’s visit to the front on Aug. 4, no back-and-forth fire was observed. April, on the other hand, saw much more intense fighting between the two, and Mara’an recalls losing some of his men at that time.

According to Mara’an and other sources in the peshmerga, the reason that they aren’t more aggressively going on the offensive against IS is pressure from Baghdad. “We are waiting for commands from the government in Baghdad” to attack IS more directly, Mara’an said.

Mara’an also noted that the peshmerga forces need to coordinate with the United States. “If we want to move forward, we call the US and its allies,” he said. Given the country’s relationship with the Iraqi government, his statement leads one to believe the United States may be supportive of holding back the peshmerga as well.

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