By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
After the rapid conquest of Kirkuk on October 16th there are reports that the Iraqi Security Forces and particularly the Hashd al-Shaabi or Shia militias, have entered Sinjar and areas south of Sinjar mountain (Shingal). It is part of an overall plan by Baghdad, and likely coordinated with Iran to take over all the disputed areas that Baghdad has with the Kurdistan Regional Government. “The Hashd al-Sha’abi are preparing to attack Shingal,” wrote one Peshmerga just after midnight on October 17th. Heavy artillery had been moved into Kocho, one of the Yazidi villages that was the site of ISIS brutal genocide in 2014. An ultimatum was given to the Peshmerga to leave by 2 in the morning on October 17th. It was unclear if this included the YBS or PKK-affiliated Yazidi fighters.
A Facebook group affiliated with Baghdad and which supports Yazidis said that “The KRG peshmergas are currently withdrawing Shingal/Sinjar and the Iraqi and Yezidi Popular Mobilization Forces are entering the Yezidi region in Shingal.”
Other sources confirm the operation. Bradley Brincka on Twitter notes “Yazidi colleagues in Sinjar say Kurdish Peshmerga and Asaysih have left the district. Many Yazidi Pesh stayed; they are Shingaly natives…Meanwhile, Yazidi PMU commander Qassim Shivan touring Sinjar city. Battalions expected to take northern villages evacuated by Peshmerga earlier.”
Rudaw has reported that the Hashd took Sinjar in the morning hours. The report notes that “The mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi are now in control of the Yezidi town of Shingal or Sinjar, west of Mosul, after the withdrawal of the Kurdish Peshmerga from their positions, a day after the Iraqi Iraqi-led forces controlled the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a Kurdish security official told Rudaw. Then, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces engaged in a 20-minute fighting when attacked by the Hashd forces east of Shingal. The Peshmerga forces repelled this attack, Rudaw’s Tahsin Qasim reported.” It means that in addition to Yazidi villages already held by PMU (Tal Banat, Tal Qasab, Kocho and Gir Azer, that more of the district will fall under the PMU.
It remains to be seen how far the PMU will advance and what becomes of Yazidi forces such as Qasim Shesho’s fighters and Haider Shesho. Qasim fought against ISIS and resisted at the Sharf ed-Din shrine where he has a base north of the mountain. This is a strategic area because of the presence of PKK and YPG affiliates. Turkey will push for Iraq and the PMU to remove them. It is unclear how far the Peshmerga withdrawal will continue.