Iran, Turkey fight over Tal Afar

IS’ No. 2 man, Abu Alaa al-Afri, who was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputy, hails from Tal Afar and was killed in the city in an Iraqi raid last year.

The city of Tal Afar, with its diverse population, has become a controversial battlefield for parties beyond Iraqi borders, which is what confirms its geographic importance — especially for Iran seeking to reach Syria through the Iraqi land channel, and for Turkey seeking to revive the glory of the Ottoman expansion.

The city is home to different ethnicities and has a Shiite Turkmen majority, which is at the base of the Iranian-Turkish conflict (Iran supports the Shiites, while Turkey supports the Turkmens).

It is important to note the Shiite-Sunni conflict among the Turkmen population, which could spark a raging war within the district, making it easier for Iran and Turkey to gain a foothold in the city that might involve military presence.

To add fuel to the fire, there has been talk that the liberation of Tal Afar, which is still under IS control, will be under the supervision of the head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani. This would be a major provocation for the Sunnis there.

The PMU involvement in Tal Afar is also controversial and is seen as a reaction to the Turkish presence in Bashiqa.

Faleh al-Fayad, the head of the PMU and the national security adviser in Iraq, said, “The PMU’s goal is to liberate the city of Tal Afar and reach the outskirts of Mosul, without entering the city unless by an order from the commander in chief of the armed forces.”

On Oct. 30, the Turkmen Front in the Kurdistan Region parliament warned against any demographic change in the district of Tal Afar as a result of the PMU interference in the battle there, and thus refused the latter’s participation in the liberation of the city.

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