Friend or Foe? Baghdad and Erbil’s ‘Arms Race’

By Hoshnag Ose.
This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
A recent stoush between Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish forces near the Syrian border is a symptom of the “arms race” between the two. They act more like armies from opposing nations, than two arms of a national force, critics say.
Apparently the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Kurdish military were only one command away from armed conflict in recent weeks. According to statements made by some officials in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, weapons were ready to be fired in the tense Iraqi-Syria border areas.
The tensions arose after July 27, when the Iraqi government ordered Iraqi army brigades to deploy in areas normally under the control of the Iraqi Kurdish troops, known as the Peshmerga, on the borders between Iraq and Syria, and more specifically in the Zamar area in the state of Ninawa. The reason: to protect border areas. However the Peshmerga did not allow the Iraqi army to complete its mission.
This was because Iraqi troops were sent into these areas without, according to the commander of Peshmerga, prior arrangement. The areas, around the city of Dohuk and, in particular, in the Zamar area, are part of what are known in Iraq as “disputed territories” – that is, where there is land that Iraqi Kurdistan says belongs to Iraqi Kurdistan but which Baghdad says belongs to Iraq.
At the time, locals fled and the two sets of troops faced off, apparently ready to fire upon one another. Since then though tensions have eased after meetings were held between the two forces. And in early August military leader and the official spokesman for the Peshmerga, Jabbar Yawar, confirmed that an agreement had been reached and that the majority of the points had been acted upon.
Yawar said that part of this plan allowed Iraqi military to remain in areas formerly under sole control of the Kurdish forces in order to assist in guarding the Syrian borders. However the agreement also stipulated that additional troops recently brought into the area should be withdrawn and that the main roads in the area be reopened. Finally, all of the forces in the area would be withdrawn once there was an end to the Syrian crisis in sight.