Rudaw file photo of Peshmerga forces in Makhmour, near Erbil.
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Through village chiefs and tribal leaders, Islamic State (ISIS) has apparently been appealing for a ceasefire with Kurds in Iraq, following numerous battlefield wounds inflicted by the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces.
“ISIS has requested the Peshmerga to halt their attacks and reach a kind of ceasefire with them,” said a Kurdish commander speaking on condition of anonymity.
He added that Peshmerga victories, coalition air raids and the ISIS rout in Tikrit at the hands of Iraqi forces and Shiite militias has severely erdoded the power of the religious radicals.
“ISIS sends messages to the Peshmerga through local chieftains, claiming they will not attack the Peshmerga if the Peshmerga do not fire at them,” the commander said. “But we don’t take such demands seriously. We have experience with them.”
Kurdish authorities reamin wary of any ceasefire offer, remembering how the religious zealots turned on the Kurds and attacked them last August.
Kirkuk Police Chief Sarhad Qadir described ISIS as “blind snakes.” He believes “it is wrong to negotiate with ISIS.”
Jafar Sheikh Mustafa, former minister of Peshmerga and a military commander, said he is unaware of any ceasefire request by ISIS. He emphasized that “ISIS has been contained.”
“Peshmerga forces have been able to weaken ISIS during the last few months. They are ousted from Tikrit as well. People and tribal leaders under the control of ISIS frequently contact us and they are willing to put down their weapons,” he explained.
Kurdish military officials say they have turned the tide against ISIS. But their common lament is a plea for advanced heavy weapons from Western allies, including the United States: Washington has maintained a policy of supplying the Peshmerga through Baghdad, which the Erbil government does not trust.
In the nine months that the Peshmerga have been locked in fighting along their 1,050 kilometer border with the Islamic caliphate, there have been many ups and downs.
In the beginning, ISIS made huge advances towards Kurdistan, getting dangerously close to Erbil, then Kirkuk and Garmian. But the militants were pushed back on all fronts after the Peshmerga went on offense.
Since then, they have regained nearly all of the territory lost to ISIS last summer: the Kurdish parliament’s Peshmerga Commitee has visited the fronts to verify reports.
“ISIS has been weakened,” said committee head Ari Harsin, explaining the militants had lost ammunition, as well as the ability to attack and move freely.
“We have regained control of 95 percent of the territory that was lost to ISIS,” he said.
Harsin emphasized the importance of controlling roads, noting that ISIS still controls the strategic Mosul-Tel Afar road. “But they cannot use it very effectively because the Rabia, Aski and Mosul roads are under the control of the Peshmerga,” he explained.
Other than Shingal, Hawija, Rashad and some villages, all Kurdish areas that were lost to ISIS are under Peshmerga control.
“We are certain that ISIS has been weakened, but we have to remain vigilant; they are dangerous,” Qadir warned.