US calls on Kurds, Shia forces to end rifts and focus on anti-ISIS campaign

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ARA News 

AMUDE – The United States State Department called on the Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia forces to end the ongoing clashes in the mixed Shia-Kurdish town of Tuz Khurmato and focus instead on the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Iraq. 

“We don’t have much details. We’ve been obviously watching it closely. There have been ongoing, I believe, skirmishes between Kurdish Peshmerga forces and these, as you said, the Popular Mobilization Forces in the northern Iraq town of – forgive me, I’m going to mispronounce it, but Tuz Khurmato,” Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department said on Tuesday.

“Both these forces have played important roles, frankly, against – in the fight against Daesh. When we view this kind of infighting, to put it that way, we view it with concern, because we obviously want to see the focus on the real enemy in Iraq, which is Daesh. And Iraqis forces, whether it’s Peshmerga, whether it’s Popular Mobilization Forces, need to stay united,” he added.

On Wednesday, PMU-leaders Hadi Al-Ameri from the Badr Organization and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the PMU forces, visited Tuz Khurmato to meet with leading Peshmerga commanders, and Kirkuk governor, Dr. Najmaldin Karim to stop the fighting.

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 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 told AEA News.

“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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