iraq kurdistan flags

What’s happening in Iraqi Kurdistan: A new “civil” war for oil ?

Reuters and DW reported earlier this night that Iraqi forces entered the city of Kirkuk in Iraqi on Monday, capturing key government buildings including the Kirkuk governor’s building.

According to Al-Jazeera, the Kurdish Peshmerga command has said the Iraqi government will pay a “heavy price” for its military campaign in Kirkuk, which it described as “a declaration of war against the nation of Kurdistan”.

iraq kurdistan oil pipelines map
Credit: @Reuters

In its statement, the Peshmerga command accused the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of being responsible for initiating “war”, warning Baghdad that it will “pay a heavy price for this unfairness”.

“We call upon all the real Peshmerga of the country and the resilient and enemy-defeating people to do all they can to resist and defeat the attackers,” it said.

The incursion into the Kurdish-controlled area prompted thousands of Kurdish residents to flee, with international aid groups warning of the humanitarian fallout.They raised the Iraqi flag over the provincial council’s headquarters in Kirkuk and took control of the governor’s building.

Kurdish peshmerga forces reportedly retreated back from positions outside the city, but were setting up defenses in the city as thousands of civilians fled in cars north to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. The move by Iraqi forces prompted the German military to withdraw 140 military trainers deployed in northern Iraq to instruct peshmerga fighters.

Crowds of ethnic Turkmen who opposed Kurdish control of the city were celebrating. Some drove in convoys with Iraqi flags and fired shots in the air Reuters reports.

Oil prices reacted strongly to the news, with Brent crude rising as high as $58.47 a barrel on Monday. U.S. oil futures peaked at $52.37 level. Iraqi Kurdistan briefly shut down some 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) of production from the major Bai Hassan and Avana oilfields due to security concerns.

Turkey has offered to help Iraq’s federal government oust Kurdish fighters from Kirkuk after reports that fighters of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were inside the oil-rich city.

Turkey is closing its airspace to flights to and from Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, its Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag announced on Monday.
Ankara will also start procedures to hand over control of a border gate into the Kurdish region to the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, Bozdag told reporters following a weekly cabinet meeting.

Tensions have mounted since a controversial 25 September independence referendum – which irked Baghdad as well as neighbouring Turkey and Iran – which both have large Kurdish minorities – and controversially included disputed territories such as Kirkuk.

The Baghdad central government considers the Sept. 25 Kurdish independence referendum illegal, especially as it was held not just in the autonomous KRG region but in Kirkuk and other adjacent areas that Peshmerga forces occupied after driving out Islamic State militants in 2014.

The Kurdish peshmerga have controlled Kirkuk since 2014, when it prevented the province’s oil fields from falling into the hands of IS after the Iraqi army collapsed. With Baghdad weak, the Kurds moved to expand territory under their control outside the three provinces that officially make up the Kurdistan region.

The Kurds and Baghdad have long been in dispute over oil resources and revenue sharing. But the apparent collapse of the peshmerga within a day also led to bitter accusations between rival Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, highlighting factionalism that has plagued the Kurdish camp.

Barzani’s opponents have accused him of seeking to give himself increased powers through the vote, saying he should have accepted a U.N.-backed plan to postpone the referendum in favor of negotiations with Baghdad

 

U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that Washington would not take sides in the matter but ”we don’t like the fact that they’re clashing.

Iraq is OPEC’s the second-biggest oil producer. Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq, as Kirkuk, are among the most productive in the country and contain much of its energy infrastructure.

*With sources from DW, Reuters, Al-Jazeera and Rudaw. Pic: caption @twitter

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One thought on “What’s happening in Iraqi Kurdistan: A new “civil” war for oil ?”

  1. The Iraqi government in Bagdad was itself not capable to safeguard the country against the seizure of vast areas by IS. Only the Kurdish resistance (including many young women) helped to stop this fundamentalist bloody flood. Now it seems that history again plays an ugly game with the Kurdish people, an old culture of the Middle-East which really deserves something else.

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