AFP file photo of Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi fighters in west Mosul.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - After the state-backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi started its campaigns to control villages around the Yezidi town of Shingal over the weekend, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani opposed the group nearing Yezidi populated areas in a meeting with security and military officials of Shingal.
As soon as the Hashd al-Shaabi besieged the two Yezidi areas of Tal Qasab and Tal Banat, President of the Kurdistan Region and General Commander of the Peshmerga Armed Forces Barzani was informed of the Hashd move and therefore stressed in the meeting with the Shingal officials that “Hashd must not enter those [Yezidi] areas.”
A Peshmerga official who was an attendant of the Barzani meeting told Rudaw TV that the Peshmerga was aware of the plan in the first place. He accused the Hashd of changing their plans by attacking Yezidi populated areas and "breaching" an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad on the Shingal region which rejects Shiite presence in the region.
From the ISIS held Turkmen town of Tal Afar towards Qairawan in Shingal in northern Iraq, Hashd al-Shaabi has been fighting to clear ISIS out of the area for three days and until now it has captured nine Turkmen and Arab inhabited villages and besieged two Yezidi complexes.
“As soon as we realized they had changed their plan, we informed President Barzani and therefore he asked for an urgent meeting," said Sarbast Lazgin who is tasked with overseeing Peshmerga forces in Shingal.
Lazgin explained to Rudaw “before the attack started, an official with Hashd al-Shaabi informed us but he only talked about Qairawan and Baaj towns. We warned them not to enter Yezidi populated areas.”
Lazgin, who has been leading Peshmerga forces in Shingal since day one revealed that there is an existing agreement between Erbil and Baghdad which rejects military presence of the Hashd in Yezidi inhabited areas.
"After Shingal was liberated by the Peshmerga, some areas around it were left under ISIS control. We had coordination with the Iraqi government, awaiting them to control Baaj and Qairawan areas, then we would control the remaining areas.”
But he accused the Hashd of “breaching the agreement.”
Haji Jawdat, media officer to the Badr organization, an armed group within the Hashd al-Shaabi told Rudaw Friday that “there is full cooperation with the Peshmerga especially in areas which have close proximities with Peshmerga.”
The Hashd forces launched their operation to recapture areas west of Mosul in the early hours on Friday, as the Iraqi forces have been engaged in fierce fighting in western Mosul.
The main objective for the paramilitary force is Qairawan and Baa’j located west of Mosul and close to the Syrian border, the Hashd al-Shaabi media office reported senior commander Mahdi al-Muhandis as saying on Friday.
Accusing Iran of leading the Shiite offensive, Lazgin claimed Tehran has long been trying to open a corridor from northern Iraq into Syria.
Therefore, he noted, Iranian and Iraqi Shiites’ support for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) “falls within this context.”
In the wake of an ISIS brutal march into Shingal in August 2014 and a military offensive by the Peshmerga to drive the group out of the city in November 2015, the PKK has placed a military foothold in the region since.
He suggested that the US, Turkey and Saudi will oppose Hashd’s presence in the region if they make further advances.
“Iran has started the plan through the Hashd al-Shaabi and they are just 60 kilometers now from Syria’s border. But I do not believe Iran’s dream will become a reality because if the Hashd makes further advances, Turkey, Saudi and America,” will respond to it.
About Peshmerga’s own plan in the region, he explained whenever the Peshmerga were ordered by the superiors, “Peshmerga will control all of the Yezidi Kurdish areas which include 13 villages and complexes.”