Iraq Intending to Deploy Army in Kirkuk as Pretext for Hawija Assault

ERBIL — Under the pretext of liberating Hawija town in southern Kirkuk province, the Iraqi army is intending to return to the province after abandoning it in the wake of the Islamic State (IS) emergence in 2014.

According to sources, the Iraqi army Brigades 16 and 19, Counter-Terrorism and Rapid Response Forces will take part in the operation to liberate Hawija town and these forces will later return to the areas abandoned by the army in Kirkuk which have been defended by the Peshmerga forces.

BasNews has learned from a military source that Iraq is planning to build four military bases in Hawija, Riyaz, Zab, and Um Khanjir districts in southern Kirkuk.

On the other hand, the Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitaries, known as Hashd al-Shaabi, are seeking to deploy a large number of militias near Kirkuk, ostensibly for Hawija offensive. However, the underlying intention of the Iraqi army and the paramilitaries is to impede the move by Kurdistan Region to joining Kirkuk officially to the region.

Moreover, a number of Shi’ite factions are reportedly planning to launch Hawija operation simultaneously with Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, aiming at interdicting the process due to the conflicts likely to arise during the battle of retaking the town.

Baghdad has been procrastinating Hawija operation while it was slated to begin even before the Mosul assault. The IS militants are launching periodic attacks from the town against Kikruk and its vicinity. The timing of the operation is yet unknown.