Fighting between Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia militia could hinder war on ISIS in Iraq: UN

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ARA News 

ERBIL – The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, urged an immediate end to the fighting taking place between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia militia in Tuz Khurmato. However, clashes have continued on Tuesday.

Western diplomats are worried the tensions between the Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces could hurt the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), also known as IS, ISIL or Daesh. 

“The SRSG [Ján Kubiš] expresses his utmost concern that the fighting is endangering the lives of the civilian population and could hinder the fight against Daesh, and his disappointment that a truce was violated soon after it was reached,” the UN said in a public statement. 

“This is not the time for such futile fighting. Nothing can justify this violence”, Mr. Kubiš said. “We urge the parties to stop the fighting and to focus their efforts on the battle against the common enemy, Daesh [Islamic State],” he said. 

“The SRSG expresses strong support for ongoing efforts to bring an end to the fighting. The parties should work on restoring stability to the area and focus on how to defeat the terrorists.” 

In the meantime, the British Ambassador to Iraq, Frank Baker, said on Twitter: “I support UN Iraq Kubis’ call for an end to the fighting in Tuz [Khurmato]. Civilians and the fight against Daesh are endangered.”

Fighting broke out between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia paramilitary groups in Tuz Khurmato on Saturday night after Shia militiamen threw a grenade into the house of Brigade General Sirwan Shaqlawayi, killing him instantly.

A truce was brokered on Sunday to end the fighting that killed dozens of people on both sides, but it broke out again on Monday, and attempts to reach a new ceasefire deal failed. 

“We are calling on our al-Hashed al-Shaabi [PMU] commander brothers in Tuz Khurmato and the area to rein those outlawed and disobedient militants, arrest the criminals, hand them over to court, and give orders to all of our brothers of Popular Mobilization Units to get out of the center of Tuz Khurmato,” Peshmerga Spokesman Lieutenant General Jabar Yawar said in a statement on Sunday.

“Those clashes should end in order to implement our duties and tasks together, including the protection of the defense line and the battle of flushing out the ISIS terrorists in the area,” he added.

Speaking to ARA News, Nicholas Heras, a Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, said that the conflict could threaten the fight against ISIS.

“The fighting at Tuz Khurmato is foreshadowing of the ethnic and sectarian politicking and conflict that will occur as Iraq’s two major identity groups, Kurds and Shia Arabs, jostle for position inside the crumbling Iraqi state,” he said. 

“Neither the KRG nor the Hashd Sha’abi [PMU] militias view ISIS or the Sunni community as the strategic threat. The Hashd Sha’abi, which has become a vehicle for the IRGC to build a Basij structure in Iraq that is parallel to and potentially more powerful than the Iraqi Security Forces, views the Kurds as a threat. For the Kurds, the Hashd Sha’abi is a strategic threat to their control over border areas of their autonomous or potentially independent region, as well as to Kurdish control over Kirkuk,” Heras added.

“Regardless of the U.S. focus on the anti-ISIS campaign, the Kurdish-Hashd Sha’abi conflict looms as another destabilizing force that threatens the internal territorial integrity of Iraq. It also threatens to distract two major anti-ISIS actors, Kurds and Shia, from the fight against ISIS,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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