A law to found a paramilitary National Guard force in Iraq to assist in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) has put Kurds at loggerheads with other communities in northern Iraq.
Kurds strongly reject the formation of any rival armed units in the parts of northern Iraq that are known as disputed territories to which Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Turkmen and Shiite Arab populations lay claims. Most of the disputed territories are now under the control of Kurdish peshmerga forces.
Members of the other communities want to play a role in the security arrangements of those areas and hope that the National Guard will become a vehicle for their return to the security scene in disputed territories.
But fearful that the birth of other armed groups can weaken their control over those areas amid a difficult war with IS and give rise to chaotic outcomes, the Kurds have resisted the idea of other competing forces in the disputed territories.
Shakhawan Abdullah, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament, told Al-Monitor that the law has to make it clear that the National Guard will not be established in Kurdish-controlled areas.
“The National Guard law should stipulate clearly that the peshmerga is in charge in the disputed territories and that’s it,” said Abdullah, a Kirkuk deputy in the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee.
Iraq’s Cabinet passed a draft law on Feb. 3 that paves the way for legalizing the status of disparate Shiite armed groups and organizing tribal Sunni forces under the umbrella of a National Guard force.
The National Guard draft law was scheduled for a first reading by Iraqi members of parliament during a meeting on Feb. 10. But deep disagreements regarding certain items of the bill led the speaker to delay discussions indefinitely.
Grappling with a resilient and formidable foe in the form of IS, the Iraqi government is desperate to use the National Guard as a key element to turn the tide against the jihadist group. There appears to be nationwide support for the creation of the National Guard as far as fighting IS is concerned in the areas that the group controls in northern and central Iraq.