Sadr slams ‘interference of neighboring states’ following Turkish threats of Shingal operation ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday slammed foreign interference in Iraq, calling on the government to pay close attention to the northern district of Shingal (Sinjar), following threats by Turkish officials to launch a military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the area. “I will not accept the interference of neighboring states of Iraq in the Iraqi affairs, or an assault on beloved Iraq, just as I don’t ever accept Iraq to be a launchpad for attacks against neighboring states,” the head of the Sadrist movement tweeted on Wednesday. Three brigades of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic) were deployed to the Shingal region on Friday after the Turkish threats. Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, visiting Baghdad and Erbil in January, said he discussed the PKK presence in Shingal in his meetings with Iraqi and Kurdish officials. “We told the parties that Turkey is ready to provide support for eliminating terrorists in Iraq’s Sinjar region if they seek any help or support,” he said, state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin reiterated this stance in an interview last week. Turkey launched a fresh offensive, dubbed Operation Claw-Eagle 2, on Mount Gara on February 10 with the purpose of targeting suspected PKK positions there. The operation ended on Sunday. Turkey claims to have killed 51 PKK fighters and arrested two during the offensive, while the armed group claims only 15 of its own died in the operation. Turkey has previously carried out airstrikes on alleged PKK targets in Shingal. Sadr also condemned Monday’s missile attacks on Erbil, where 14 rockets have been fired at the Kurdistan Region’s capital, killing one and injuring several others. “Perhaps the escalation in Sinjar, the unjustified attack in Erbil and the siege on some airports in the south [of Iraq] may be a pretext to cancel the papal visit to Iraq, all this is done via internal and external interference,” Sadr added. Pope Francis will visit Iraq in March, according to a statement by the Vatican, marking the first papal visit to the land revered by Christians for its featuring in the Bible.