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Peshmerga wants to return to disputed areas

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Peshmerga wants to return to disputed areas

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:48 am

Return to disputed areas top demand

Sirwan Barzani, Peshmerga commander of the Makhmour-Gwer front says the Kurdish Peshmerga's top priority is to return to areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil, and that they are optimistic that ongoing talks with Iraqi army will bear fruit to fill the security void in the disputed territories that have turned into a breeding ground for Islamic State (ISIS) militants

Speaking to Rudaw on Monday, Barzani said Kirkuk is the core of the problem, and that the two sides have not agreed on how to jointly work in the province. The Peshmerga and Iraqi army will need to reach a mechanism on how to deploy troops given the "sensitivity" of the area, he added.

He blames consecutive Iraqi governments for neglecting the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which has led to the long standing unresolved dispute between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Barzani also said the support of the US-led coalition is vital in fighting ISIS, and labeled calls for coalition troops to leave Iraq as “the biggest mistake.”

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity
:

Rudaw: At what level are the talks between the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs and the Iraqi Defense Ministry. What is the core issue in the way of reaching a final agreement between both sides. Are there developments?

A degree of mistrust has been created between us and the Iraqi army in the wake of the October [2017] events. It has recently improved. As you know, the last meeting was held in Baghdad and the latest one was held in Erbil today.

You want Peshmerga to return to the disputed areas, but the Iraqi government does not agree. What obstacle is in the way of an agreement?

I am not part of the committees, but as you know these problems are more political than military. If the politicians do not come to an agreement, it will be quite difficult for the military teams to be able to solve the problems. Fortunately, they have edged closer towards each other. They are in talks in Erbil. We are optimistic an agreement will be reached. We should understand that reaching an agreement on the disputed areas or Kurdistani areas outside of the Kurdistan Region is not that easy.

Kirkuk is an impediment. We have not agreed on the deployment of forces in or outside of the city center. It is not easy for either side to resolve the sensitivity of Kirkuk city center. All in all, they will reach an agreement very soon and there are plans to establish a major joint coordination centre in Baghdad, one in Erbil and four more coordination centers between the Iraqi Defense Ministry and the Ministry of the Peshmerga Affairs in Kurdistan. We are very optimistic that we will reach a solution.

Are there parallel political talks for resolving the long-standing security and military issues?

Definitely. Should the politicians not reach a deal, the Peshmerga and Iraqi defense ministry cannot do anything. The problem is political in the first place, not military. This issue dates back a long time, to the establishment of the Iraqi constitutionand Article 140. Unfortunately, consecutive Iraqi governments kept postponing the implementation of this article and the referendum was never held in the disputed areas. This problem is not vested in the Region's government. It was unfortunately the result of the negligence of the consecutive Iraqi governments. Politicians are in continued talks to resolve these issues.

What are the demands of the Kurdistan Region or the Peshmerga ministry? On what points do you want to agree with the Iraqi defense ministry?

The agreement is aimed at eliminating Daesh (ISIS) given that they have taken shelter in the territories between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army. The Iraqi army does not have enough manpower to bring these large swathes of territory under control. Problems grip locals on a daily basis. As you know, they torch farmlands and kill a large number of people, especially in the areas of Khanaqin and Garmiyan. What we want is to create stability in these areas and for people to be safe.

There needs to be complete control of these areas, similar to those administered by the Peshmerga. This is the top demand that we need to agree on by allowing joint forces to be present in them. We want Peshmerga to return to the areas that had been under their control before the October [2017] events. The security of the disputed areas must be guaranteed, especially around the Kurdish-inhabited villages.

As a Peshmerga commander who runs a large frontline, Makhmour and Gwer, how do you assess ISIS activities, especially near Makhmour? What is their estimated number? do you know where they are?

They are very very active, they move a lot in the Qaraj plains. Qaraj and Qarachogh are connected to Qayyarah and other areas down south, to Hawija, through the Tigris river. In this region, they are active and move around all the time. They move freely at night. Their exact number cannot be known because they have become a guerilla group. What we can estimate at this stage is that approximately 150 Daesh militants are active on the ground at Mount Qarachogh alone.

Many times individual and joint operations have been carried out between the Peshmerga and coalition teams backed by coalition drones and warplanes. Some people might not know this information because we cannot always announce our operations. Daesh militants have come under bombardment 34 times over the past two months, killing more than 100 terrorists. This is not a small number at a time people doubt whether or not Daesh exists. Again, I can’t say the exact number, but at least 100 terrorists have been killed over the past two months.

Why is Daesh still present in an area where the Iraqi armed forces are present and the coalition has bombed them numerous times. Why have they not been eradicated?

Mount Qarachogh is very rugged. The mountain range is 50 kilometers long. It is true that the mountain is surrounded by plains. On the eastern side, it is more than 800 meters high. The southern side [under Iraq's control] which overlooks Qaraj is very rugged, and is where they have dug tunnels, in addition to the numerous natural caves they also use. This has become a safe haven for them. They can easily move down the plains because there are not enough armed forces to repel them. Naturally, you only deploy troops to certain locations. They cannot be present.

When the region was under the control of the Peshmerga, we had a face-to-face frontline against the terrorists, we dug trenches and the place was fully controlled by the Peshmerga. Even if one Daesh fighter wanted to cross to the other side, we would see him. In other words, they were never able to even reach Mount Qarachogh. This is not the case now. The plain is wide open to them. Yet, there are people in the region who work and coordinate with them either out of fear or shared ideology. We do not exactly know. It is clear that they receive food and they can easily commute and return to their bunkers on the mountain.

Do the coalition forces continue to assist the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army, especially after they halted their work due to Covid-19 measures?

During the onset of the outbreak of the coronavirus, they reduced their coordination and operations. They are actively engaged in coordination with the Peshmerga. We constantly have coordination. I am speaking about our frontline. I would say we hold a meeting every two to three days. They precisely monitor Mount Qarachogh and assist us in a serious way.

Without their help, it would be very hard to hit them [ISIS] because the fighting techniques have changed as they have resorted to guerilla activities. Without technology from the coalition, it is difficult to kill them in such large numbers. The same is true when it comes to their coordination with Iraq. The biggest mistake is calls for the withdrawal of the coalition partners by some parties in Iraq. If Iraq does this, it will greatly suffer and Daesh will further deepen the issue of stability, and they will be able to control many areas.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/interview/20072020
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Peshmerga wants to return to disputed areas

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Re: Peshmerga wants to return to disputed areas

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:58 pm

Kurds want their land back

Kurdish villagers, resettled Arab families clash in Kirkuk disputed territory

Clashes erupted south of Kirkuk between Kurdish villagers and more than a dozen Arab families who once lived in the area over claims of land ownership in the volatile region, a local Kurdish official said on Saturday.

The clash took place in Guli Tapa, a village located between Daquq in Kirkuk province and Tuz Khurmatu in Salahaddin province, Mala Karim Shkur, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official told Rudaw. The area is disputed by the governments of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

"Nearly 15 Arab resettled families who have broken into a village located between Daquq and Tuz Khurmatu were confronted by the Kurdish inhabitants of the area," Shkur, based in Tuz Khurmatu, told Rudaw.

Footage captured by Kurdish local Araz Dawoodi appears to show a crowd of Kurdish villagers carrying sticks and stones, with a group of Arab families stood in the distance. An Iraqi federal police vehicle is stood between the two crowds, while their personnel is seen moving villagers back. Dawoodi calls on the Kurds to stop throwing stones at the Arab families because there are women and children among them. Gunfire can be heard, but it is unclear from the footage where the fire is coming from.

Daquq mayor Luis Sheikh Fandi denied that there were any armed clashes taking place between Kurds and Arabs in the area, but he did say that "there are land ownership issues in Daquq which has remained unresolved between Kurds, Arabs and the Iraqi government."

As part of its Arabization policy, Saddam Hussein's Baath regime constructed a village called Mahawsh for Arabs relocated from elsewhere in Iraq in the 1990s on Guli Tapa land belonging to Kurdish villagers, Shkur said.

Following the collapse of the Baath regime in 2003, the resettled Arabs were returned to their areas of origin further south in Iraq, with land returned to the original Kurdish inhabitants, he added, according to Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution - designed to resolve disputes of territory claimed by Iraq's various ethnic and religious groups.

"They have now come back and want to once again invade the Kurdish farmlands," Shkur said. "We will move to this village to support the Kurdish inhabitants and farmers and will not allow the resettled Arabs once again to return to this region."

However, since since federal forces took control of disputed territories including Kirkuk on October 16, 2017, Kurdish locals have alleged that a "re-Arabization" of the area is underway.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/020820201
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Re: Peshmerga wants to return to disputed areas

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Aug 02, 2020 11:03 pm

Reminder Arabs stole land:

Resettled Arabs confiscate
Kurdish farmlands in Kirkuk


Kurdish farmers continue to have their land confiscated in Kirkuk for Arabs resettled during the Baath era, according to local villagers

"I feel like this tractor is running over my body," said Kurdish farmer Dashti Agha as he watched his land being plowed in the village of Palkana, which is south of Kirkuk in the town of Sargaran.

Last week, Kirkuk court took 50 dunams of farmland from Agha and gave it to an Arab who returned to the region last year after lodging a complaint to claim ownership of the land.

Agha says he showed documents, including land deeds, to Iraqi forces to prove the land is his but was unsuccessful in retaining his property.

There are 38 villages in Sargaran town. 12 of these villages are subject to land disputes, according to the local council.

Arabs from elsewhere in Iraq were brought into the disputed areas of Kirkuk largely between 1970 and 1978. The Arabization of the province has been a historical flashpoint between Baghdad and the Kurds.

After 2003 and the fall of the Baath regime, Iraq began a policy of de-Arabization within the framework of Article 140 of the constitution, which aims to reverse the demographic changes begun by Saddam Hussein during the Al-Anfal campaign.

Lands that had been confiscated from Kurds and Turkmen were returned, while the Arabs who had been resettled were given financial compensation.

However, they have now come back with the support of the Kirkuk governor Rakan al-Jabouri, who issued 14 decrees seizing land owned by Kurds and giving it to Arabs before Iraq’s Federal Court rescinded his decrees in December.

Kurdish locals in the area have alleged that a “re-Arabization” of the region is underway since federal forces took control of disputed territories on October 16, 2017.

"I did my best to stop them. But they [the Arabs] called the [Iraqi] Army. Shortly afterwards, two groups from the intelligence service of the Iraqi army arrived on the scene. We spoke on the matter. I insisted that they had no rights to use my land,” Agha told Rudaw.

"This issue is not just on the farmlands, but the households as well. It will go beyond Palkana village to others in the region," said Mohammed Amin, another farmer.

Qadir Abbas, head of the Sargaran town's Local Council, says the best solution is for Agha to launch a legal appeal.

"The Kurdish farmer can appeal in court, as Arabs have done," Abbas said. "By doing so, the court will look into both appeals and will make a final decision. Whoever is rightful, the court will decide in his favor."

Abbas added that the Kurdish farmer has the official deeds to the land, unlike the agricultural contracts issued to Arabs under the ex-Baath regime in order to enact demographic change in the area.

Abbas urged the Iraqi parliament, Prime minister and Federal Court to find a "swift solution" to the issue.

Villagers lay partial blame on the Kurdish parties, who they say have given no support to affected farmers.

Hatam Taii, a spokesperson for Arabs in Kirkuk, told Rudaw English that they have "official proof" and documents from the 1940s and 1950s that the area belongs to the Shammar, a large Arab tribe.

The lands of the 12 disputed villages were taken away from Kurdish farmers by the Iraqi government in 1975 on grounds that they were prohibited oil zones. Two years later in 1977, under Decree No. 949 issued from the the Baath Supreme Revolutionary Council, they were given to Arabs resettled in the region.

The Iraqi Agriculture Ministry has now formed a committee to resolve the matter at hand after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) called on them to end the land disputes in Sargaran town.

"We are trying to end such disputes in a legal and constitutional way," Faris Issa, in charge of the KRG representative office in Baghdad, said.

"We have asked Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to help halt the confiscations. He is not happy with the situation," he added, describing the KRG as also taking the situation seriously.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/281120192
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