ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A commander of an Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia threatened to fight Peshmerga "to the death" if the Kurdish forces are redeployed to disputed territories in Nineveh province.
Saad Qado, commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi’s 30th Brigade in Nineveh, made the comments in an interview with a local Iraqi news outlet on Thursday.
“Our forces are on standby to confront the Peshmerga forces or any other forces that enter the Nineveh Plain, and we will defend it to the death,” Qado told Baghdad al-Youm.
The commander said that Hashd al-Shaabi forces “will not allow any member of the Peshmerga to enter the Nineveh Plain because it is our land and it is our right to defend it.”
He went on to claim that some individuals seeking to run in upcoming Iraqi elections as part of Kurdish parties are now spreading false reports about the recent deterioration of security in the area to justify the return of the Peshmerga.
Since Peshmerga fighters withdrew from Kirkuk and other disputed territories in the Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi offensive following the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum, security has deteriorated and IS activities have increased.
Qado also remarked that the presence of the Kurdish forces in Nineveh “has become a dream in the past and would be impossible to occur.”
Local Kurdish media recently reported that the US-led Coalition was pressuring Baghdad to allow Peshmerga forces to be redeployed to areas in the ethnically diverse provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Diyala.
Peshmerga forces secured Kirkuk and other disputed territories in 2014 after the Iraqi army collapsed and failed to defend some areas following the rise of the Islamic State (IS).
Editing by John J. Catherine