Politics

Iraq, Kurdish region reach 'historic' agreement on Sinjar

By Faris al-Omran

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi on October 9th chairs a meeting with Kurdish officials to reach an agreement on the status of Sinjar district. [Photo courtesy of Mustafa Kadhemi's media office]

The Iraqi government on Friday (October 9th) reached an agreement with the autonomous Kurdish region on the status of western Ninawa's Sinjar district.

The historic agreement involves understandings on security, civil administration, reconstruction and the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

A joint administration will be formed in Sinjar by the federal government and the Kurdish region, and federal forces will oversee security in co-operation with Kurdish forces.

Under the agreement, all armed groups are to withdraw from the area, including the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

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Administrative disputes between Baghdad and the Kurdish region, as well as the the presence of Iran-backed militias, have hindered opportunities to rebuild Sinjar district following its liberation from ISIS. [Photo courtesy of Sinjar Madinati]

Since the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) was expelled from the district in late 2014, Sinjar has suffered discord over security arrangements, public services and the lack of a unified administration.

This has obstructed the return of normal life to the district and hindered efforts to return its displaced population.

Breakthrough with Kurdish region

The government, in co-ordination with the Kurdish regional government, "will fulfill its fundamental role of properly implementing the agreement to ensure its success, in co-operation with the people of Sinjar", Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi said in a statement October 10th.

The delay in restoring stability to Sinjar has been at the expense of the local population, he said, "which has previously suffered at the hand of ISIS's terrorist gangs, and is now suffering from a lack of services".

Kadhemi stressed the government's rejection of the presence of armed groups in the district.

The agreement "will speed up and facilitate the return of IDPs and will be the beginning of a solution for the problems of all ethnically and religiously diverse areas in Iraq", said Kadhemi.

UN's top representative in Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said October 9th she hoped the agreement would usher in "a new chapter for Sinjar, one in which the interests of the people of Sinjar come first" and that it would "help displaced people to return to their homes, accelerate reconstruction and improve public service delivery".

The agreement reflects a "remarkable rapprochement between the [federal] and Kurdish governments", Iraqi journalist and political analyst Ziad al-Sinjari told Diyaruna.

It was reached following months of bilateral talks, he said, noting that the agreement is part of the new government's efforts to achieve a breakthrough with regard to settling the outstanding disagreements with the Kurdish region.

The disagreements primarily relate to the management of shared administrative districts, including Sinjar, he said.

"If implemented, the agreement will contribute towards restarting reconstruction projects in the district and ending the suffering of the displaced population," said al-Sinjari.

He noted that thousands of displaced people, mostly Yazidis, still reside in displacement camps in the Kurdish region.

Iran-backed militias threaten agreement

Al-Sinjari cautioned, however, that the agreement might be threatened by Iran-backed factions.

Militia leaders have already expressed their discontent with the arrangement, he said, because it stipulates that all armed groups must be removed from Sinjar.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazaali said the agreement was a "political courtesy".

"It is hard to imagine that Iran and its proxies will stand idly if they are forced to evacuate the district, which is located on the route used for the transfer of fighters and Iranian weapons to Syria via Iraq," al-Sinjari said.

Iran-backed militias, which were involved in acts of displacement and violence against civilians from Arab tribes in Sinjar, "today have a strong influence in the district, and they certainly will not relinquish it easily", he noted.

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