In Rudaw 

Three PMF brigades deploy to Shingal to counter Turkish threats

Three brigades of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) have deployed to the Shingal region after Turkey threatened to launch a military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the area.

“The PMF strikes with an iron hand. Therefore, neither Turkey, nor PKK, nor any other person can threaten anyone. There is no such thing as a threat as long as the PMF is here. We have come to the area. How can Turkey come? Doesn’t our country have its sovereignty? The PMF is here,” Abbas Ali told Rudaw’s Tahsin Qasim on Friday. He commands the PMF’s Brigade 21, second regiment, which has been deployed to east Shingal. Brigade 33 has been sent to the west and Brigade 14 to Mount Shingal (Sinjar).

Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, visiting Baghdad and Erbil in January, said he discussed the PKK presence in Shingal in his meetings with Iraqi and Kurdish officials. “We told the parties that Turkey is ready to provide support for eliminating terrorists in Iraq’s Sinjar region if they seek any help or support,” he said, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin reiterated this stance in an interview this week.

Last year, Turkish forces conducted several airstrikes on alleged PKK positions in the Yazidi heartland.

After the territorial defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Shingal, multiple armed groups with different allegiances have operated in the northern Iraq region. The unstable security situation coupled with a lack of reconstruction of war-damaged infrastructure has hindered the return of most of the local population who fled ISIS in 2014.

Under a landmark 2020 deal between Erbil and Baghdad, security for Shingal is an exclusive federal responsibility and all other armed forces were ordered to leave. But Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said this week that armed groups have not withdrawn and the agreement has not been fully implemented.

Some 200 members of one group, the Shingal Resistance Units (YBS), linked with the PKK, have joined the PMF, according to Khal Ali, commander of the PMF’s Lalish forces.

A local official with links to the YBS, told Rudaw’s Tahsin Qasim that they are ready to defend Shingal. “We, as the forces of YBS and YBJ (Women’s Resistance Units), are always ready to resist any attacks by ISIS or any other forces. Our forces are ready to resist not only in Shingal, but all over Iraq,” said Hasso Ibrahim, deputy co-chair of the Shingal self-administration council.

The PKK, an armed group fighting for greater rights for Kurds in Turkey, has its bases in the Kurdistan Region mountains. Turkey frequently carries out cross-border air and ground military offensives against the PKK. This week, Ankara launched its most recent operation in the Mount Gara area of Duhok province.