The Baghdad-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a predominantly Shiite paramilitary group backed by Iran, has pushed out the U.S.-designated terrorist group known as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from areas south of the Yazidi-majority Sinjar region in northern Iraq.
Although Yazidi leaders and officials from both Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq have urged the PKK to leave the Sinjar region, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party remained and formed an anti-Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) armed group made up of members of the Yazidi minority in Iraq.
The PKK vowed that its fighters would only leave Sinjar region once it goes back to the control of the Yazidis.
Rudaw now reports that the PKK has voluntarily handed over the territory south of Sinjar, also known as Shingal, to the PMU, which has pledged to put the Yazidis back in control of the region.
“We were not expelled. Rather, we pulled out voluntarily,” Mazlum Shingali, a commander of the PKK’s Yezidi Protection Units (YBS) in Sinjar told the Kurdish news outlet.
The PMU has already recruited some local Yazidis to place in charge of policing the Sinjar area after ISIS falls.
“These areas are the Yazidis’, but the territory is Iraqi. And we want to belong to Iraq,” Naif Jasim, a Yazidi PMU officer told Rudaw.
“We won’t allow the PKK, its affiliated groups or the [KRG] Peshmerga forces to enter these areas. No political party is entitled to enter these places,” vowed Jasim. “For us, there is no difference between the Peshmerga and PKK forces. These places [belong to the Yazidis]. They are the people who will be running them.”
Along with other ethnoreligious minority groups, the Yazidis have been victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS. The Yazidis and the Christians in northern Iraq have accused the U.S.-backed Iraqi Kurds of stealing their land.
The Iraqi Kurds have long been calling for their own independent state, which would include an area that covers the Yazidi-majority Sinjar region and some of the historical homeland of the ancient Assyrian Christians in Iraq.
In Iraq, the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region borders the northern Syria territory controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Iran-allied PMU fighters are reportedly trying to establish a supply route along the Kurdish-controlled Iraq-Syria border region that would benefit the Tehran-backed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his allies, which include Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah and other Shiite fighters affiliated with the Islamic Republic.
“Iraq’s [Iran-allied Shiite] government is aiming to control the border area with Syria in coordination with the Iranian-backed army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” reported Reuters. “Linking up the two sides would give Assad a significant advantage in fighting the six-year rebellion against his rule.”
While the Iraq-based Badr Organization, a component of the PMU, has been marching toward Syrian border, the U.S. military has decided to send more weapons to anti-Assad rebels in the region.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International and some news outlets have accused the American armed forces of arming the Iran-affiliated PMU fighters. In other words, the U.S. military is allegedly arming both the anti-Assad Syrian rebels and pro-Assad Iran-allied Shiite militias in Iraq.
“We only coordinate with Iraqi forces and [for the most part] have no contacts with non-Iraqi forces,” Abu Mahdi Muhandis, a PMU commander, told Rudaw, adding, “We currently have very good coordination with Peshmerga forces in this region.”
The PMU troops have been fighting against the Sunni ISIS terrorist group alongside U.S.-backed Iraqi military forces and KRG Peshmerga fighters.
Iran-backed PMU fighters, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Hashd al-Shaabi, are believed to be between 100,000 and 120,000 strong.
The PMU commander told Rudaw that once ISIS is defeated, they will allow the locals to administer their region.
“The fate of these areas is clear,” declared Muhandis. “We have come to only eject ISIS from here. We are an Iraqi force, and we will be executing any orders given to us. And we just handed over these areas to the Yazidis themselves. They are free as to how they want to run them.”