Sectarian flags spark tension between Iraqi, Kurdish forces


Sectarian flags carried by Iraqi soldiers have caused tension with the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) peshmerga security forces, delaying the soldiers' passage to Bashiqa in the ongoing Mosul offensive.

The Iraqi soldiers were kept waiting at a security checkpoint because their armored vehicles were ornamented with banners symbolizing the Shiite sect, as peshmerga forces refused to let them pass without removing them. After the soldiers took down the flags, they were allowed to enter Bashiqa. This is the second time that tensions between peshmerga forces and Iraqi soldiers have escalated over the issue, following a similar encounter in the district of Mahmur.

Before the Mosul operation began, Turkey gave repeated warnings about the possibility of further escalating tensions, including sectarian clashes and a new wave of refugees, if demographic sensitivities were not taken into consideration by the government in Baghdad. Also on Monday, responding to questions regarding the dangers of potential revenge plots between different groups participating in the operation, KRG President Masoud Barzani said, "We will not allow any vengeful attitude in Mosul."

Various extremist Shiite paramilitary organizations such as the Hashd al-Shaabi are in Iraq for the Mosul operation, with most of them under the control of Shiite extremists believed to be affiliated with Iran.These paramilitary organizations have committed countless murders of Sunni citizens, thinkers and scholars as "revenge" against Daesh.

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