In the towns where the Kurdish Peshmerga military, the Iraqi military, and ad-hoc Shiite militias have succeeded in eliminating the Sunni terrorist group the Islamic State, that power vacuum has led to contests between Kurds and Arabs over who is in charge of picking up the pieces.
Reports all seem to concur that the town of Saadiya, north of Baghdad, is not being run by the Islamic State. Reuters reports that the news originally came from the Iraqi army itself, and corroborated in a statement by Mala Bakhtiar, a senior official in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The neighboring town Jalawla was also liberated.
Mere days after the liberation, Shiite leaders of the Iraqi army have taken full credit for chasing the Islamic State out of those towns. “Saadiya was liberated by the (Shiite) People’s Protection Force (HASHD) with heavy artillery and air support from the Iraqi army and national police force,” said Hadi Ameri, head of the Shiite Badr militia, adding that he did not believe the Peshmerga forces were involved. In the same Rudaw report where he is quoted, however, the Kurdish publication claims that other sources can confirm Peshmerga involvement.
For their part, the Peshmerga are calling for the Badr militia to leave the governing of Saadiya to them. According to a Peshmerga brigadier speaking to Rudaw, the Kurdish forces are treating the Shiite militia as yet another force that the town needs to be liberated from: “There is the Badr brigade in Saadiya now and we need to negotiate with them in order to take the town back from that militia force.” The same soldier confirmed that the Badr brigade did, however, have a hand in eradicating ISIS from the area.
This report is not universally recognized, however, as the central command of the Peshmerga issued a statement saying the towns were “liberated only by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.”
The dispute over the towns in light of the Islamic State no longer being a factor there highlights the depths to which ethnic tensions flow in Iraq– including far more than just Sunni/Shiite/Kurdish rivalries.
Adding to the turbulent situation, the Iraqi government is reportedly considering arming the nation’s Yazidi minority in response to the Islamic State’s widespread attempts at committing what appears to be genocide against them. According to Iranian media, Iraq’s defense minister Khalid al-Obeidi is calling for weapons, ammunition, and “even air strikes” in support of Yazidi militias. While Yazidis are not Muslim, they are ethnically Kurdish, and the Peshmerga army have made significant efforts in Nineveh and the area around Mount Sinjar to keep the Islamic State from rendering them extinct.
While advances have been made in some towns near Baghdad, the Islamic State appears to continue to be on the warpath, particularly in Syria. American and coalition forces continue to attack the terrorist group’s strongholds, including its “capital,” Raqqa, Syria, with as many as 24 airstrikes so far this week.