An Iraqi Army soldier mans a position on the frontlines. Photo: AFP.
JALAWLA, Kurdistan Region – As global efforts to defeat the Islamic State’s (IS) forces intensify, the Iraqi army is reportedly calling on tribal fighters to prevent Kurdish Peshmerga forces from moving against the Islamists in Diyala province.
Lieutenant-General Abdulamir al-Zaidi, a senior commander of the Iraqi army’s controversial Dijla command, has offered weapons and funds to Krui tribesmen if they stand against Peshmerga forces fighting to liberate the town of Jalawla from IS militants, Kurdish military sources told Rudaw.
They said Zaidi had met in Baquba with the tribal chief and offered to incorporate the tribesmen into the military if they agreed to the deal.
"If you implement the task given to you, you will be assisted," a Peshmerga source quoted Zaidi as telling the tribal chief.
"We have intelligence on this matter, they held a meeting,” confirmed another Peshmerga commander.
Jalawla was under joint Kurdish-Iraqi protection until June, but fell under the full control of the Peshmerga after Iraqi forces pulled out two months ago.
There have been more Peshmerga-IS confrontations there than any other part of Kurdistan’s more than 1,050-kilometer southern border with the Islamists.
Last month Kurdish forces retreated from the town, citing the difficulty of street fighting in populated areas.
“We stand against any army that supports those terrorists,” vowed Mahmoud Sangawi, the Peshmerga commander in the Jalawla area. He said that members of the Krui tribe had fought against the Peshmerga in recent clashes with IS forces.
In 2003, the Iraqi government agreed to form a battalion of 700 fighters from the tribe known as the “Jalawla emergency battalion.”
Peshmerga sources said that more than 1,500 Krui tribesmen are former Iraqi army soldiers. They said the army has issued a general amnesty for the fighters, with the aim of reviving the Jalawla battalion.
In Paris on Monday, a US-led coalition of 26 countries agreed to help the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the war against IS.