Iraqi Army vehicles pass through Kurdish Peshmerga forces on their way to the Makhmour front earlier this year. Photo: Farzin Hassan/Rudaw.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Peshmerga forces prevented an Iraqi army convoy from passing through Makhmour to reach the frontlines near Mosul on Friday because the convoy was flying sectarian flags.
A Peshmerga source told Rudaw that the Iraqi convoy, after first refusing to lower the sectarian flag, later accepted the Peshmerga’s request and removed the flag. The Peshmerga subsequently let the convoy pass.
“An Iraqi army convoy on Friday wanted, via the Makhmour frontline, to arrive near Mosul and position themselves there. But the Peshmerga did not let them pass because they were flying different sectarian flags,” Shakhawan Abdullah, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw.
“The Peshmerga asked them to raise only the Iraqi flag. But the Iraqi forces did not accept that, so in return the Peshmerga did not let them pass,” he added. “The Iraqi defense ministry has gotten in touch and is trying to coordinate.”
A Peshmerga commander on the Makhmour frontline told Rudaw “The Iraqi forces did not implement some of the points and terms that were agreed on among the Peshmerga, Iraqi army, and coalition. Therefore they have been sent back from the area.”
In discussions between the three forces participating in the Mosul offensive, the Peshmerga, the Iraqi army, and the global coalition, it has been decided that all forces participating in the Mosul offensive must come under Iraqi army control. Any force not under Baghdad’s control will not participate, officials have confirmed.
The three forces have established joint command centres, one is in Erbil, to coordinate the military operation and the role each force will play has been decided upon.
To facilitate the military offensive, the Kurdistan Regional Government and Presidency have granted permission for Iraqi forces to cross into Kurdish territory in order to enter Mosul from territory under Kurdish control, but “When the Iraqi army goes through Peshmerga forces, they will leave a line between Peshmerga forces and their bases in securing the Mosul area,” Jabar Yawar, chief of staff spokesperson for the Peshmerga ministry, said in September.
But the proximity of Iraqi forces to Kurdish territories has caused some worries. An Iraqi army convoy that passed through the Khabat district west of Erbil on Wednesday fired into the air, upsetting local people.
A resident of Kalak in the Khabat district who witnessed the incident told Rudaw, “When the Iraqi army convoy was passing by the area, the Shabak people from the area came to the road to welcome the troops and express their delight. Iraqi army soldiers opened celebratory fire, which was quite a lot. This really made us worried.”
The Shabak are a minority group living in northern Iraq.