Tense wait between Rojava Peshmerga and Yazidi forces

Rojava Peshmergas near Iraq, November 2015

According to Rudaw News Agency, a group of “500 Rojavan Peshmerga” forces have been deployed to the border between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Syria’s autonomous region, Rojava, in northern Syria.

The fighters have been deployed to the area between Xanesor and Sinune, Rudaw reported.

The Peshmerga force, which is affiliated to the Kurdish National Council (KNC) is trained and equipped by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and has been sent to the area “to defend South Kurdistan (KRG) and Rojava”, a source said.

According to a report in the ANF New Agency, the 500-strong group tried to enter by force an area controlled by the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia trained by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Local sources told ANF that the ‘Roj-Pesh’ as they are known, were sent to the area to force the YBS out. Many KDP Peshmergas with Hummer vehicles are also accompanying the group, the ANF reported. However the passage of the group has been prevented by the YBS and a tense wait ensues.

The move comes following diplomatic traffic between Erbil-Ankara and Erbil-Damascus. KRG President Massoud Barzani visited Ankara last week, while KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is reported to have held talks in Damascus during the same period. High on the agenda of discussions was the entrance of ‘Roj-Pesh’ forces to Syria, several sources reported.

Commentators have said contradictions between the KDP and PKK in regards to their respective political projects and power sharing in the region are the cause of tensions. The KDP has also demanded that the PKK withdraw from Shingal, an area the force entered in 2014 to prevent the Islamic State (IS) attack on the Yazidi community. The latest development can be seen as a strategic move by the KDP to further pressure the PKK and groups affiliated to it ideologically and politically, a source told Kom News.

The deployment of ‘Roj-Pesh’ to Rojava, the autonomous region in northern Syria, has been a contentious issue for some time. The dominant Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) have rejected the presence of a separate force to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), saying it would lead to “internal fighting.” The Roj-Pesh would only be welcome if it fought under the umbrella of the YPG, which is seen as something of a ‘national army’, the parties said.

The KNC, which is the political umbrella of the Rojava Peshmerga and is a part of the Syrian National Council supported by Turkey, has pushed for 7,000 of its troops to be allowed to enter the autonomous region, saying it would bolster defence of the area.

Anas al-Abdah, the head of the SNC, also reportedly said recently that the Rojava Peshmergas would be included in the Euphrates Shield operation as a part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). This is viewed as being an unlikely development with the Turkish-FSA currently attacking Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions in Manbij. The YPG is the largest component of the multi-ethnic SDF.