The dismal performance of the Kurdish Peshmerga which derives it’s fighting base from Iraqi Kurdistan has led to Kurds from Turkey, Syria and Iran in finding their way into Iraq to fight Federal forces backed by the US. The Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) has long since suffered disunity at the hands of tribal ties. The KDP-led Peshmerga were operated by the Barzani family and this was mirrored in the PUK-led Peshmerga operated by the Talabani family. While cooperation was good against ISIS across the board; between KDP, PUK Peshmerga and the Iraqi Federal forces, this was not the case when the Iraqi government began to regain control of disputed territories. The decades old schism between the PUK and KDP led to a divide on disputed territories with the PUK Peshmerga siding with Iraq and handing over territories to the Federal government. However ,the KDP-led faction is beholden to the long standing leader Masoud Barzani, in his 14th year of rule, which has recently clashed with Iraqi Federal forces.
In the wake of these clashes and the apparent weak performance of the KDP-led Peshmerga there has been a surge of Kurds from Iran entering Iraq illegally and participating in battles targeting Iraqi Federal forces which had agreements with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) on peaceful transfer of power in many areas. These groups originating in Iran have been at the forefront of fighting, picking up the slack where necessary and were amongst the first forces in Kirkuk fighting in which virtually all KDP and PUK Peshmerga fled the city in a few short hours. Iraq had agreed with both on a peaceful pull out and deployed Iraqi Federal forces to accompany local police in Kirkuk city. However there were clashes from both PKK fighters originating from Turkey and Iranian Kurdish fighters. These led to casualties on both sides. Within the first few hours of Peshmerga fleeing Kirkuk city, the PKK announced its efforts to defend the city with pictures and videos of a Humvee as well as a dozen fighters. They launched an attack on the K1 Air Base housing US Special Forces, Iraqi Special Forces and Federal police and this was beaten back very quickly. Many saw the PKK announcement as an attempt to capitalize on the Peshmerga withdrawal, raising the PKK popularity within the KRG.
The troubling trend of utilizing foreign fighters in Iraq by the Peshmerga was seen best in the Turkmen town of Altun Kupri where heavy clashes took place killing several civilians and Iraqi Federal forces. Iranian PAK fighters fired heavy artillery into the town after Peshmerga fled and caused significant damage. As they are not beholden to any Iraqi city or authority it makes it difficult in dealing with foreign nationals in a peaceful manner. Peshmerga command is seen as traitorous by these Kurdish groups for dealing with Iraqi government, with the Turkish and Iranian Kurdish forces fighting for their own goals. This lack of command and continued attack on Iraqi cities has led to more aggressive stances being taken.
The Peshmerga fighters in front line positions have gone as far as to supply weapons such as the German Panzerfaust 3, a weapon donated by Germany in large amounts for the fight against ISIS. However the misuse of these weapons has led to Germany ceasing shipments of weapons as well as stopping all training programs with the Peshmerga. The first instance of misuse was the Rojava Peshmerga, a KRG Peshmerga unit made up of Syrian refugees, attacking Yazidi positions in Sinjar due to political differences between the KRG and the local Yazidi garrisons. The empowerment of foreign nationals has not been a welcome development within Iraq by the international community and responses have shown tolerance levels are very low.
As Iraqi Federal forces continue their operations in controlling territories that have demanded for them such as Turkmen areas and recently Assyrian areas there is a renewed fear that foreign nationals from Kurdish regions of Turkey and Iran will use these opportunities to clash heavily and cause damage to both infrastructure such as bridges, which were destroyed by Kurdish forces in Altun Kupri, civilian lives and Federal forces. The foreign Kurdish forces benefit greatly from their image as resisting Iraqi Federal forces while the local Peshmerga forces flee but this has made negotiations with the KRG difficult as KRG has little control over these PKK and PAK forces within the country. The hope for all Iraqi civilians is that foreign fighters are to leave the country and the Peshmerga continue its agreements with the Iraqi government and allow Federal forces to work with local Assyrian, Turkmen and Yazidi forces to administer their areas with the Federal government.