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Iraqi Turkmen demand formation of own military force - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraqi Turkmen children stand in their tent at a refugee camp in Dohuk province, Iraqi Kurdistan, on November 21, 2014.  (Reuters/Ari Jalal)

Iraqi Turkmen children stand in their tent at a refugee camp in Dohuk province, Iraqi Kurdistan, on November 21, 2014.
(Reuters/Ari Jalal)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s Turkmen should have their own forces in order to repel Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacks on their areas, a senior Turkmen figure told Asharq Al-Awsat.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front Arshad Al-Salihi said Iraq’s Turkmen community is considering steps to develop its own military force that would form part of the Iraqi army.

The official cited the lack of organization of the Turkmen who volunteered to fight ISIS as a reason for the request.

He said: “The forces that are fighting ISIS in Iraq now are the national mobilization forces, Iraqi army and the Peshmerga forces. As for us, we have a few Turkmen fighters and volunteers in the towns of Tazah, Basheer, Daquq, Amerli and Tuz and we are thinking of developing them into a special Turkmen force similar to the Peshmerga.”

Salihi urged the Kurds, who liberated several Turkmen-majority areas from ISIS this summer, to back such demands. He questioned Kurdish objections to the formation of a Turkmen force, saying that their “goal is the same [as ours].”

“If the Kurds reject this demand, this means that the issue has a political dimension. Kurds say that Kirkuk is Kurdish because the Peshmerga forces are defending it. But I say that the Peshmerga is part of the national defense system and according to the constitution they are regional guard forces and operate in coordination with the Iraqi government,” he said.

Earlier this year, Kurdish Peshmerga deployed to oil-rich Kirkuk, 150 miles (236 kilometers) north of Baghdad, to secure it against ISIS attacks. Kurds have always claimed to have historical rights to the hotly-disputed city but have never before had an official presence in it. Salihi considers Kirkuk to be part of Iraq proper.

The official said it was high time the Baghdad government realized the need to prepare Turkmen to fight ISIS.

“If we are provided with weapons, funds and military formations, we will be there with our brothers from the Kurdish Peshmerga to defend [our] areas against ISIS. The federal government should realize that it has become necessary to form a Turkmen force,” he said.

However, officials argue that the Turkmen request for arms may face constitutional obstacles.

A member of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi Parliament Shakhwan Abdullah told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is a consensus at the security and defense committee over rejecting the issue. The Iraqi constitution stipulates that there are only two forces in Iraq: the Iraqi army forces and the regional guard forces [Peshmerga], which is part of Iraq’s defense system.”

“No other force outside the [defense] system may be formed,” Abdullah said.

“Kirkuk is Kurdish so it is understandable that it should remain under Kurdish control,” Iraqi Kurdish MP Arafat Karam told Asharq Al-Awsat.