The Dijla armed force must be stopped. That is the message from the president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Dijla Operations Command was launched in June by Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The force aims to eliminate the remnants of terrorism in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahaddin provinces.
These are disputed provinces that both Kurdistan and the central government lay claim to. Kurdish leaders say the force will only bring instability.
According to Iraq’s constitution, the federal government has the authority to establish and manage armed forces to guarantee the security of Iraq.
But the constitution also requires the Iraqi parliament’s consent before military commands are formed. Maliki did not seek this consent.
Fears are now mounting over a possible confrontation between the Dijla command and Kurdish Peshmarga troops. The Peshmarga is Kurdistan’s national security force, which is also stationed in the disputed areas.
Thousands of Peshmarga troops have been dispatched to Kirkuk province following the deployment of the Dijla force. Peshmarga forces and Iraqi police clashed in the province on Friday. One person was killed and seven others were wounded.
Some Kurdish officials say the Dijla force is a political tool, designed to alter the demographics of the provinces before future elections.
Supporters of the Dijla force believe Kurdish leaders have been somewhat hypocritical in their stance. They say Kurdish leaders condemn the Dijla force moving into the disputed territories in the name of security. But when Turkish shelling - also in the name of security - reaches the Kurdistan Region’s border, Kurdish officials remain silent.
Implementing the long-delayed article 140 from Iraq’s constitution would put an end to such military disputes.
The article seeks to hold a referendum to settle the ownership of the disputed territories. Iraq’s government has repeatedly delayed the referendum. Kurdish officials believe the Dijla force will further hinder the implementation of article 140.