“We may come all of a sudden one night. This is the bottom line”. This statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not without reason, as it paves the way for a military invasion towards Sinjar – the Yazidi stronghold in Iraq – where the lines of contact are intertwined; turning that spot into a future battleground between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – in which it is stationed.
These remarks came days after Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited Iraq, where he met with Baghdad and Erbil’s political and military leaders. Stressing that Turkey is, “closely following the removal of terrorists from the vicinity of Sinjar”, and that Ankara is ready to provide support in this regard. He said he had reached “understandings on many issues with Iraqi officials”, without giving details on whether they included any consensus on Turkish, Iraqi, or joint military action in Sinjar.
Nevertheless, the upcoming battle could witness a shift in traditional fighting between Ankara and the PKK as this time, the Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) is pushing three brigades to support its local militant allies – whom Turkey accuses of loyalty to the PKK.
Most of Sinjar’s (located 120 km west of Mosul) residents still cannot return to their homes since ISIS took control of it and subjected it to many atrocities.
Sinjar is located near the Iraqi-Syrian border. and Ankara sees it as a link between the PKK’s areas in northern Syria, and the Qandil Mountains bordering Iraq and Turkey, from which the PKK is launching its military attacks against Turkey.
The PKK is positioned in Sinjar after taking part in battles to liberate it from ISIS, and turkey thinks that the city might become “a second Qandil”. Ankara also says that the PKK’s presence is expanding despite Baghdad and Erbil’s agreement to maintain security in Sinjar district by federal security forces – in coordination with Kurdistan – to remove all illegal armed groups, as the agreement provides for the termination of the PKK’s presence in Sinjar.
The P.M.F. in Sinjar
The Turkish threat to invade Sinjar prompted factions within the pro-Iranian P.M.F. to escalate politically and militarily, after the head of Badr Organization, Hadi Al-Amiri, called on the Iraqi government to, “take all necessary measures to deter any aggression on Iraqi territory, the Iraqi armed forces, and the P.M.F.”. Some P.M.F. factions already moved and stationed near Sinjar.
“These reinforcements consist of three P.M.F. brigades – with their equipment and mechanisms – as well as formations from Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and Hezbollah. All of which were stationed in The Domiz camp in Sinjar district and moved under the guidance of the P.M.F.’s chief of staff, Abdul Aziz Al-Mohammadawi (Abu Fadak)”, a security source told Shafaq News agency.
“About a month ago, a camp was arranged – where the 20th Division of the Iraqi Army used to be, it includes the former Karbala Infantry Training Center and the Sinjar military post – for the P.M.F. as it has taken control of most of the military positions of the Iraqi army”, the source added.
“The P.M.F. is an official military security institution belonging to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. It has been ordered to move in and around Sinjar district to prevent any attack on Iraqi territory”, Mohammed Al-Basri, a leader of the P.M.F., told Shafaq News agency.
“If there is Turkish incursion into the Iraqi territory, there will certainly be orders issued by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces to retaliate militarily or otherwise. We are bound by what is issued exclusively by the commander-in-chief”, Al-Basri added.
Political science professor, Ahmed Hussein, told Shafaq News agency, “I think Sinjar is on the verge of a military confrontation between the extraneous forces on the one hand and between Baghdad and Erbil under Turkish auspices on the other”.
“The deadline given to the Erbil-Baghdad agreement will expire by the end of February, and with some brigades that have recently entered Sinjar, I think it is an attempt to stop any confrontation between the allies of these factions with the Iraqi state or Turkey”, he continued.
“Allies of the Shiite factions are the Sinjar resistance units (YBS), the Sinjar protection units, the Local Yazidi fighters, and other military wings, and all of them are close or affiliated with the PKK. Any targeting or removal of them will cost the pro-Iranian factions important strategic positions that link them with Syria”, he added.
In Sinjar, a council set up by the PKK, within a structure called self-administration, includes security forces and agencies headed by the Sinjar Protection Units, which receive salaries from Baghdad under the umbrella of the P.M.F.
The PKK’s administrative systems are still operating in Sinjar despite the recent agreement between Baghdad and Erbil.
What does Turkey want?
In an article, Habertürk website’s writer and journalist, çetiner çetin, spoke about a three-stage plan that Ankara is considering to reduce the PKK’s influence in Sinjar, so that it can later move on to its military activities in Syria.
The first stage of which is to end and restrict the PKK’s activities in Sinjar, “The prevailing view is that the PKK’s relationship with Syria will be cut off like the Qandil Mountains within two years”.
In the second stage, Ankara will fight the Syrian PKK inside Syria, but this will clash with the U.S. position, which is still unclear.
The third stage involves the restoration process, including strengthening Ankara and Moscow’s communication regarding the Syrian talks.
“Two important expectations were made during Minister Akar’s visit to Baghdad, where Ankara proposed a joint operation with the support of the Baghdad and Erbil administrations, to be moved in the second half of March, starting from nine different points”, Çetin said.
“The Turkish forces intend to enter Nineveh and Kirkuk to occupy territory in it, and this is accurate intelligence information”, Kawa Sheikh Mous, the PKK’s relations official, told Shafaq News agency.
“Turkish forces are not coming out of any Iraqi area that they are entering. They are planning to occupy new Iraqi territory in Nineveh and Kirkuk, and they have been working on this occupation for two years through ground and air