Disputes among prominent Kurdish parties in northern Iraq could pave the way for neighbouring Turkey and Iran to invade territories in the Kurdish autonomous region.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which controls the Kurdish government in Erbil (Hewler), and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls areas along the Iranian border and is headquartered in Sulaymaniyah, have been in a bitter rivalry for decades, following an internal conflict between 1994 and 1999.
The disputes between the two parties are at their highest level and may lead to civil conflict, said Lahur Talabani, the former co-president of the PUK, in an interview for Al-Monitor.
While the two parties cannot succeed by sitting at a table and negotiating, neighbouring countries have their eye on opportunities for fulfilling their ambitions in northern Iraq, according to Talabani, who was ousted from the party by his cousins last summer.
Talabani also talked about Turkey’s military operations in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its plans on Sinjar where the PKK has established a military presence.
In addition to the PKK, there are also several pro-Iranian factions in Sinjar, which has become a battleground for Ankara and Tehran.
“The main obstacle on Turkey’s way to enter Sinjar is Iranian proxies if there is a security vacuum, a political vacuum; Turkey is always very good at taking advantage of these gaps,” Talabani said, adding that the PKK in the past accepted to withdraw its forces in case a deal has been reached among internally conflicting parties that include the people of Sinjar.
“There is a huge disagreement on how to govern the Kurdistan region, which may lead to civil conflict, which will pave the way for the neighbouring countries to invade,” Talabani said.