Baghdad– The Iraqi government has received a message from the US embassy concerning the liberation of Tal Afar, Iranian news agency, IRNA, reported, but Nineveh MP Sajida al-Afandi said the move has political motives aiming to pressure the government to allow the participation of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in the liberation of the city.

Afandi said it seems that Iran received a message from their “friends” the PMF stating that the Iraqi government wouldn’t allow their forces to enter Tal Afar, west of Mosul.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Afandi said that most agreements before and after the operations began in Nineveh generally state that PMF factions are not allowed into the cities and should remain on the outskirts.

Earlier on Saturday, IRNA quoted an Iraqi source, whom it described as “senior” as saying that the Iraqi government received a message from the US embassy in Baghdad urging it “to suspend the military offensive in Tal Afar and not liberating the town from ISIS” claiming that the Turkish troops could bombard the Iraqi forces.

Observers believe several signs indicate a possible local and regional clashes in Tal Afar as security forces are close on completely liberating it from ISIS.

Afandi agreed with analysts stating that Iran aims to establish a passage from Diyala governorate passing through Nineveh district and Tal Afar all the way to Syria.

She hoped Tal Afar wouldn’t become a city of struggle between Iran and Turkey.

The MP expressed belief that Tal Afar’s liberation would be very difficult given that it is the last area in Iraq which ISIS still holds, and the terrorist organization would forcefully try to maintain it under its control.

Yet, she said the entry of PMF into the city would complicate matters especially that the forces had previously threatened the citizens of Tal Afar, the majority of whom are Turkmen divided between Sunnis and Shi’ites.

Shortly after the Iranian agency reported the news, the Iraqi government commented on the matter through its General Secretariat and not the council of ministers.

The secretariat issued a statement denying Iranian reports that the Trump Administration had asked the Iraqi government to suspend an offensive to retake Tal Afar from ISIS.

“The reports carried by an Iranian news agency are baseless and there is no US message to the Iraqi government regarding Tal Afar,” it said.

Nineveh MP Abdul Rahman al-Louwayzi said political causes were delaying the initiation of the Tal Afar liberation which had been scheduled to start 12 days ago. He explained that it was first postponed due to weather conditions, but later it was put on hold and the decision turned into liberating al-Hadar area.

It is possible that Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi postponed the liberation of Tal Afar for not wanting to complicate things further, Louwayzi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said Abadi wants to avoid a war in areas witnessing political differences.

The Nineveh MP believes there is an exchange of roles between Turkey and US concerning Tal Afar. He stated that civilians in disputed areas have limited options, saying the involvement of PMF created some sort of balance between Arabs and forces backed by Erbil and Turkey.

On Sunday, Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jubouri discussed with the elders and sheikhs of Tal Afar tribes the status of the judiciary and the means to find appropriate solutions after liberation from ISIS.

He urged the tribes to sign an agreement which includes procedures that protect relations between them.

“Your parents and grandparents have lived together in this city, united in the face of dangers and challenges, sharing the joys of being a family and a single house,” Jabouri told the elders.

Jabouri suggested either resorting to tribal and social solutions which are agreed on between local officials or relying on the judicial system.

“We realize the sensitivity of the situation in Tal Afar and believe an initiative to reunite all tribes and form an agreement between them is a necessity now. It is important to establish a formula that guarantees all entities in this city would live in cohesion,” he added.

originally published in the Asharq Al-Awsat

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