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The White Flags (Arabic: الرايات البيض‎) are an active insurgent group in northern Iraq opposed to the Iraqi government, having taken part in the Iraqi Civil War's last phase and the ongoing Iraqi insurgency (2017–present).

White Flags
Arabic: الرايات البيض
Participant in the Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017) and the Iraqi insurgency (2017–present)
Flag of Taliban (original).svg
A white flag similar to the one used by the group
Active2017–present
IdeologyBig tent (probably)
Kurdish nationalism (disputed)
Islamism (disputed)
Ba'athism (disputed)
Leaders
HeadquartersTuz Khurmatu
Area of operationsNorthern Iraq
Size500–1,000[4]
Part of Ansar al-Islam (Iraqi gov. claim)[2]
Allies Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order
PJAK (Allegedly)[5]
Opponent(s) Iraq[4]

 Iran

Seal of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.svg CJTF-OIR[7]
Battles and war(s)War on Terror
Designated as a terrorist organisation by
 Iraq[8]

Nature of the groupEdit

The exact nature of the White Flags is disputed:

  • Some, including select Iraqi civil and military officials as well as regional experts, claim that the White Flags are a Kurdish nationalist / secessionist faction which was founded in response to the Iraqi takeover of Kirkuk, with its members referring to themselves as the Kurdish resistance.[9][10] Some Iraqi officials even claim that they are supported by Peshmerga and the Kurdistan Regional Government, though this was denied by the latter.[10]
  • According to other sources, the White Flags were formed as union of various insurgent remnants, including Kurdish Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces, Ansar al-Islam remnants, Ba'athists affiliated with the Naqshbandi Army, Saddam Hussein loyalists, and Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna members. Per this version, they are probably not connected with the Kurdistan Regional Government in any way.[9][10]
  • Bill Roggio, the managing editor of the Long War Journal, said the group could possibly be a re-branding attempt by Ansar al-Islam or simply a mix of Islamist fighters unaffiliated with external organizations or even a Kurdish movement to oppose the Iraqi government. He commented that "if the White Flag is independent of the Islamic State, I seriously doubt it will emerge as ISIS 2.0," adding "While the Islamic State has lost overt control of territory in Iraq, it still remains a potent guerrilla force with plenty of manpower and resources to threaten the state."[10]
  • The Iraqi government has stated that the White Flags are a front organisation of Ansar al-Islam.[2][11]

Organisation and tacticsEdit

The White Flags are considered to be a terrorist organization by Iraqi officials. In late 2017, an Iraqi-Turkmen MP accused Kurdish leaders of supporting the group. This was denied by the Kurdistan Regional Government.[12] The group's leader Hiwa Chor, a one-eyed militant in his early forties,[13] was a former member of al-Qaeda in Iraq but disagreed with ISIL's ambitious Caliphate plans so left the organization with a Turkman militant from the Diyala Governorate.[7] The group uses various guerilla tactics such as ambushes and utilizes IEDs. It also uses mortars and rockets. The group operates in and around Tuz Khurmatu, has launched frequent attacks on oil fields and routes in the area.[4]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "White Flags - intelNews.org". Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Suadad al-Salhy (14 December 2017). "Kurdish militant group re-emerges in northern Iraq under new name". Arab News. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Iraq to launch security operation against White Banners group, but who are they?". english.alarabiya.net.
  4. ^ a b c Tom Westcott (31 January 2018). "No surrender: 'White Flags' group rises as new threat in northern Iraq". Middle East Eye.
  5. ^ https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/mobilization-forces-plan-offensive-separatist-groups-turkmen-ares/
  6. ^ Wladimir van Wilgenburg (9 February 2018). "Coordination between Kurdish and Iraqi forces for anti-Jihadist operations in Tuz Khurmato". The Region.
  7. ^ a b Purpose, Task &. "A 'post-ISIS insurgency' is gaining steam in Iraq". Business Insider. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  8. ^ ""الرايات البيضاء" تخلف "السوداء": بغداد تتحدى "الإرهاب" مجدّداً". الأخبار. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b Al-awsat, Asharq. "Middle-east Arab News Opinion". aawsat.com. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d Bill Gertz (14 March 2018). "Shadowy Terrorist Group Emerges in Iraq". The Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Iraqi security forces repel White Flags terrorists in Tuz Khurmatu". The Baghdad Post. 25 January 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  12. ^ "After ISIS black flags, Iraq faces 'White Banners' threat - The Arab Weekly".
  13. ^ Mackay, Neil (8 April 2018). "ISIS 2.0". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 2 December 2018.