No date set for establishing joint operation room in disputed areas

Peshmerga Force’s 2nd Brigade – Photo from Peshmerga Ministry website

Goran Baban - Kirkuk

There is still no date or location determined for the planned military joint operation room and four coordination centres to be used in coordination mechanisms between Federal Forces and Peshmerga Forces in the disputed areas.

Delegations from both sides are awaiting a date to be set to resume talks to finalize setting up six coordination centres.

Two of the centres will be in Baghdad and Erbil, and the other four will be set up within the disputed areas.

Peshmerga Forces Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Qaraman Kamal, told KirkukNow: “Personnel from both sides are on the ground determining the locations and boundaries that are deemed important by both sides.”

The Peshmerga Ministry awaits Baghdad to set a date for the next meeting.

“Some claim that the Peshmerga will return to Kirkuk, that is not true. There are only talks about setting up joint operation rooms, which are meant for coordination and the exchange of information,” Kamal said.

there is still discussion on some of the chosen locations

Kamal added that there is still discussion on some of the chosen locations, and predicts the centres will be established by the end of the year, if the locations are agreed on.

He mentioned a previous cooperation between the two sides in a 27-kilometre stretch of land in Kifri District in Diyala Province. “After rejecting each other several times, at the end we cooperated. Which means agreement on other areas is possible.”

are aware that people there face mortal danger

He also said that “the Iraqi government is serious on cooperation this time, but we are still not completely sure about their intentions. We are concerned about the Kurdistani areas […] and we are aware that people there face mortal danger.”

The talks to set up coordination centres came after a series of armed attacks and explosions in the disputed areas in recent months.

Kirkuk – 2 June 2020 – Iraqi army soldiers during an operation against militant groups – Photo by KirkukNow

Major General Tahseen Khaffaji, spokesman for the Iraqi Joint Operations, told the state-run al-Iraqiya TV channel: “Peshmerga Forces will be returned to Kirkuk.” He added that the security of Kirkuk Province falls under the task of the Joint Operations Command.

According to the Iraqi Constitution, forces under direct command of the Federal Government and those under the Kurdistan Regional Government command are allowed to jointly oversee security in the disputed areas.

There has been a security vacuum since 2017 when Iraqi federal forces forced Peshmerga forces out of the disputed areas after the KRG held an independence referendum. Armed groups have taken advantage of the vacuum and have staged numerous attacks.

On 27 July, the Kurdistan Region Parliament held a session on the security conditions in those areas with the presence of the Peshmerga Minister, Shorish Ismael, who said during the session that the talks with Baghdad are going well.

Kirkuk, October 2019 – a protest by Arabs against the reopening of KDP offices – Photo by KirkukNow

After the Iraqi army collapsed and retreated from the disputed areas in the face of ISIS assaults in 2014, Peshmerga forces were deployed to all the disputed areas until 16 October 2017 when they were forced out by Federal Government forces and PMU.

“The Peshmerga have more knowledge on those areas; the Iraqi forces are not able to secure those areas on their own,” said Major General Qaraman Kamal, and added that their talks with Baghdad are under the supervision of the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS, and that they will not accept unilateral decisions.

Turkmen and Arab parties in Kirkuk, in statements they issued in July expressed their rejection of forming joint operations rooms between the Federal Forces and the Peshmerga, and they also refused the return of the security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government to Kirkuk Province.

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