Peshmerga: Iraqi forces attacking Kirkuk ‘declaration of war’
The Iraqi army has taken full control of the city of Kirkuk, an action the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have called “a flagrant declaration of war” between Erbil and Baghdad.
Following Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum last September, which resulted in more than 92 % voting in favor of leaving Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament voted to do whatever it takes to stop the secession. An action which included for prime minister Haider al-Abadi to send troops to disputed areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), most notably oil-rich Kirkuk.
Since, the Iraqi army has taken full control of the city, which has been under KRG control since 2014, when Baghdad withdrew their troops following the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), according to Al Jazeera and Sky News Arabia sources.
The “attack” on Kirkuk by the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (Al-Hashd al-Shaabi) is “a flagrant declaration of war against the nation of Kurdistan,” the Peshmerga General Command said in a statement, as reported by Rudaw. The statement also warned that the government of prime minister al-Abadi will pay a “heavy price” for initiating another conflict.
The command furthermore accused some of the Kurdish commanders of one of the main Kurdish political parties, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), of being complicit with the Iraqi army, an act of “treason”. The PUK has denied these allegations.
The Iraqi prime minister earlier said the operation was aimed at protecting the unity of the country following the Kurdish independence vote.
“ My duty is to work in accordance with the constitution to serve the citizens and protect the unity of the country, which was in danger of partition due to the insistence on holding the referendum organized by those in power in the Kurdistan region,” al-Abadi said in a statement.
The President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, has ordered the Peshmerga not to initiate conflict with the Iraqi military, but gave a “green light to use every power” necessary to fight against the advancing forces, according to Hemin Hawrami, a senior assistant to Barzani, cited by RT.
However, because of Kirkuk’s oil-rich location, the intervention is quite evidently an attempt not to lose this resource. Nine billion barrels of oil reserves lies just outside the city, according to Bloomberg — 40 % of Iraq’s total oil.
Amid this, Ankara suspended flights to Iraqi Kurdistan after recommendations by the Turkish Security Council, Sputnik News writes.