10,000 Peshmerga in Baghdad To Protect Kurds From Possible Coup

Ten thousand members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces have been sent to Baghdad to protect Jalal Talabani – the Kurdish president of Iraq – and all other Kurdish officials there from the possibility of a military coup, says a senior official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s two ruling parties.

This is the first time since 2003 that a top Kurdish official has acknowledged the threat to Kurdish politicians of a military coup in Baghdad.

Mala Bakhteyar, a senior member of the PUK’s political bureau, said in an interview with Kurdish television channel Gale Kurdistan that the PUK had prepared for the “worst case scenario,” including military coups.

“The Kurds [in Baghdad] are one of the main political blocs,” said Bakhteyar. “Currently 10,000 peshmerga are deployed there to ensure that Kurdish officials and [PUK leader] Talabani are protected from any plots. It’s not as if we are just sitting there in Baghdad quietly waiting for a plot to come along.”

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s minister for peshmerga affairs, Sheikh Ja’far Mustapha, confirmed to Rudaw that there were at least “a few thousand peshmerga” stationed in Baghdad to protect Kurdish leaders.

“[They] are in Baghdad to protect Jalal Talabani and other Kurdish officials and…are under the authority of the Iraqi Defense Ministry,” said Mustafa

However, he said he did not know if the number of peshmerga in Baghdad was as high as 10,000.

“Because [they] take orders from the Iraqi military chief and Jalal Talabani, we don’t have anything to do with them,” said Mustafa, adding that Kurds should always be aware of the possibility of a military coup.

“The Kurds should be aware of the Iraqi situation and their own situation,” he said.

However, Jabar Yawar, a spokesman for the Peshmerga Ministry, said there was no real threat of a military coup against the Kurds in Baghdad.

“I don’t feel there is any threat toward Kurds from the Iraqi government, and we don’t have any problems with any country to justify preparing military forces [for this],” said Yawar. “The peshmergas in Baghdad are only there to protect Talabani and the Iraqi Parliament.”

Confirming this viewpoint, Shwan Muhammad Darwesh, a Kurdish lawmaker in the Iraqi government, ruled out any possibility of a coup against the Kurds.

“The era of military coups in Iraq is over,” said Darwesh.

Rudaw, December 28, 2010



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