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PKK Vs. KDP in Sinjar; What Is Washington’s Role?

Despite many efforts by the KDP to intimidate the PKK in Sinjar, but the PKK leaders refused to respond to the KDP’s threatening statements because the PKK does not want to give KDP a justification to delegitimize the Yazidi units by portraying them as PKK militants. The Sinjar units are the Yazidis and will remain there forever. They are supported by both Baghdad and Washington, and the KDP’s option is to deal with it and accept the new reality.

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By Sarkawt Shamsulddin

Washington- Before the fall of Sinjar in August 2014, there were no Yazidis in charge of Asayish, police, and Peshmerga in Sinjar; all who were in charge of the city were Muslim KDP cadres who did not share much with the Yazidis. Indeed, KDP’s relations with the Yazidi communities were at odd due to Yazidis refusal to join the KDP lines. Therefore, you would hardly find Yazidis in the officers rank among Peshmerga or Asayish. There were few police officers, but they were not in charge of the city.

After the fall of Sinjar, the Yazidis appealed to the Syrian Kurdish forces the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG had already established special units to the Yazidis living in Syria. In August 2014, the YPG arrived on Mount Sinjar and opened a safe route to the Yazidis who were fleeing from self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). The Yazidis accused the KDP Peshmerga by abandoning them in Sinjar as thousands of Peshmerga were in Sinjar when ISIL approached the city. After that, the YPG along with some PKK commanders established special units for both female and male Yazidis to defend their city called YBS. The reason Yazidis are comfortable with PKK is that the PKK embrace the Yazidi religion and does not impose Kurdish identity on them.

There is also other Yazidi militants under the leadership of a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) cadre. The KDP has funded Yazidi groups under the control of Qasim Shasho. There are also over 7000 Peshmerga forces in the city. The existence of the multiple forces in the city is worrisome for many people.

Washington and Baghdad Position

However, both the United States and the Iraq want to keep the forces created for the Yazidis by both PKK and the one under the command of Yazidi’s leader Haydar Shasho because they know the Yazidis trust these forces more than the KDP affiliated ones.

In 2008, the Pentagon invited Tahsin Bag, the Yazidis spiritual leader, to Washington and suggested to him to recruit young Yazidis to a particular unit similar to the Awakening in Anbar to protect the Yazidis. People who attended the meeting with the Yazidi leader, have said that the United States realized that the Yazidis’ condition is very fragile for several reasons. “The Yazidis are not Muslim, and they are considered as non-believers by Sunni insurgents. Also, Sinjar is located at landlocked area among the Sunni tribes. Also, there were no Yazidi high ranking in the Iraqi Army or the Peshmerga,” the source said who preferred not to be recognized. “However, Tahsin Bag rejected the idea and told the Americans that the Yazidis trust Kurds and they do not want to cause an issue with the Kurds by establishing a militia group,” he added. “The Pentagon was ready to provide arms and funds for that, too.”

On January 9, 2017, the former State Department Spokesman John Kirby said that there are diplomatic talks on the situation in Sinjar. He refused to give details, but sources close to the meetings in Baghdad and Washington told the Kurdish Policy that the US diplomats warned the KDP leaders not to engage in arm conflict with the Yazidis units in Sinjar. “The American diplomats considers the Yazidis units established by some PKK commanders as legitimate ones and mindful of their ideological affiliation. Therefore, any conflict with these groups will be seen as a war against the Yazidis, not the PKK,” the source concluded.

About Sarkawt Shamulddin (60 Articles)
Sarkawt Shamsulddin is a political analyst on Middle East Affairs and co-founder of the Kurdish Policy Foundation

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