Iraq’s Yazidi region in crosshairs of Turkey, pro-Iranian groups - analyst

Turkish threats of a military invasion of Iraq’s Sinjar region, home to the Yazidi minority population, is prompting pro-Iranian militias to increase their role in the area,Middle East analyst Seth J. Frantzman said.

Turkey is accusing the Yazidis of “terrorism,” while the pro-Iranian groups, such as Hashd al-Shaabi or the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), are gearing up in Sinjar, citing the “defence” of Iraq as Kurdish forces in the neighbouring Kurdistan region are also looking to regain their role in Sinjar, Frantzman wrote in the Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

Turkey continues to conduct military operations targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) bases along the mountainous border with Iraq.

Ankara has repeatedly threatened to launch a military operation in Sinjar while targeting with air strikes a PKKaffiliate group made up of local Yazidi fighters - the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS).

Sinjar provides the PKK with crucial access to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria and the organisation has bolstered its presence in the region after intervening to protect the local Yazidi religious minority from attack by the Islamic State (ISIS) in August 2014. 

“There is no evidence of threats to Turkey from Sinjar and the warmongering from Ankara appears to be in line with its need to keep attacking Iraq and Syria using “fighting terrorism” as an excuse,’’ Frantzman wrote.

Sinjar is in the crosshairs of Turkey, and pro-Iranian groups are pushing to prevent another part of Iraq falling into Ankara’s hands, the analyst wrote, which Ankara may in turn use as propaganda to encourage Washington to see the “PKK-PMU” as allies.

It is possible that Yazidi groups are increasingly mixing with the PMU in a bid to prevent such air strikes, Frantzman said, as Ankara is more  “wary of killing pro-Iranian Shi’ites than it is of killing Kurds or Yazidis.’’