By Shalaw Mohammed.
Recent clashes in Hawija have not only increased tensions between protestors and Baghdad, they’ve also reignited hostility between Iraqi Kurdistan’s military and the Iraqi army. Locals fear violence as the two groups take part in what appears to be a cat-and-mouse deployment in flashpoint areas.
In the aftermath of clashes between Sunni Muslim protestors and Iraqi army forces, in Hawija in the Ninawa province in northern Iraq, the Iraqi army has partially withdrawn from the area. The clashes, which occurred when the army entered a camp of protestors, resulted in around 50 dead and over 100 injured. An army officer was also killed and around 30 soldiers injured.
Both sides have differing explanations for how the clashes began. The army says protestors attacked an army checkpoint near the square where they were holding their sit-ins, killing one soldier and injuring two others. As a result the army tried to chase the culprits but they hid among protestors in the camp.
The protestors themselves say the Iraqi army simply attacked their camp and they believe they did so on direct orders from the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
Tensions spread into other provinces but after some further fighting, the conflict is officially supposed to be at an end. This may be so but according to confidential documents sighted by NIQASH, significant numbers of well-equipped peshmerga forces have moved into troubled areas like Hawija, Tikrit and Yayji. Many of these places are part of Iraq’s disputed territories here – that is, terrain that Iraqi Kurdistan says belongs to its semi-autonomous state but that the government in Baghdad believes is part of Iraq proper. The peshmerga appear to have taken the opportunity afforded them by incidents in Hawija to move into some of these areas.
Meanwhile the commander of the controversial Tigris Operation Command, part of the Iraqi army here, wants the peshmerga to withdraw. And his memos appear to indicate that he is ready to confront the peshmerga if they do not move out of areas that he feels his Tigris Operation Command is supposed to oversee. The documents sighted by NIQASH say that the Iraqi army’s 12th brigade was instructed to watch what the peshmerga were doing and that if they did anything out of the ordinary, the brigade was to stop them.