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Published On: Tue, Oct 17th, 2017

Iraqi military and Hashd seize Kirkuk and oil fields from Kurdish Peshmerga

nsnbc : Armed clashes, posturing and positioning continues between Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi military and security forces as well as Iranian-backed, predominantly Shia Hashd al-Shaabi. Meanwhile, parties in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region discuss how to respond to the military and political crisis.

Baba Gurgur oil field Iraq (archives)

Baba Gurgur oil field Iraq (archives)

Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi have taken control of Gwer, Makhmour, and the Parvezkhan border crossing while Kurdish Peshmerga forces have pulled out of the town of Makhmur and Gwer and have given up some of their bases to US forces. Hashd al-Shaabi forces reportedly have not yet entered the town.  Iraqi troops and the Hashd al-Shaabi forces have also taken control of Khanaqin in the Diyala province and Bashiqa near Mosul on Tuesday morning, stated the Hashd al-Shaabi. Iraqi military and security forces and Hashd forces are reportedly also in control of the Bai Hassan oil field in Kirkuk, one of Kurdistan’s sources of revenue.

The head of the Iraqi-run North Oil Company in Kirkuk, Farid al-Jadir said that the Iraqi forces also took the Avana oil field as well in the city of Kirkuk. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Joint Command stated Monday that they controlled Babagur Gur oil field as they pushed the Kurdish Peshmerga out of Kirkuk without much resistance. With this, Iraq now has complete control over all of Kirkuk oil fields in a big blow to the Kurdistan economy that depends on oil revenues. The Kurdish Peshmerga reportedly also withdrew from Khurmatu, Daquq, and Gulala or Jalawla since Monday – reportedly to consolidate and to establish more easily defendable frontlines.

All the areas that are lost by the Peshmerga are part of the Kurdistani or disputed areas claimed by both the Kurdistan Autonomous Region and the federal government in Baghdad. The federal government says that it wants to impose its authority on all of Iraq, especially in the disputed areas after the Kurdish September 25 referendum on independence.

Iraq_Kurdistan_map Oct 17, 2017The mainly Shiite, Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi are also in control of the Yezidi town of Shingal or Sinjar, west of Mosul, after the withdrawal of the Kurdish Peshmerga from their positions, a day after the Iraqi-led forces controlled the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. It is feared that Shia extremists will try to displace Christians, Yezidi and “infidels”, a fear that is not entirely unjustified considering experiences with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces initially engaged in a 20-minute battle when attacked by the Hashd forces east of Shingal, but no fighting took place in the town itself. A Peshmerga unit in Singal, called the Shingal Command,  said in a statement that they reached an agreement with the Yezidi fighters of the Hashd al-Shaabi to prevent any bloodshed.

Meanwhile Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) President Masoud Barzani is expected to release a statement on Tuesday following the recent developments. They key message will reportedly be about the Kurdish division that partly played a role in the fall of Kirkuk on Monday.  Barzani is likely to call for unity among Kurds in the face of the ongoing crisis.

The Peshmerga General Command, under the control of President Barzani stated on Monday that fall of Kirkuk came partly as the result of a historic treason committed by some leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), an ally of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The PUK has rejected the accusations, and instead put much of the blame on Barzani’s party for going ahead with the referendum on September 25 despite the opposition from Baghdad as well as from regional and international powers.

The Change Movement (Gorran), for its part, released a statement calling for the dissolution of the Kurdish government institutions and the establishment of a national interim government.  “All of the authority and governing institutions should be dissolved,” urged Gorran, blaming the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of failing to administer the Region’s apparatus, which included Kirkuk, largely since 2014.

Masoud Barzani not to run for presidency in upcoming presidential elections.

Masoud Barzani not to run for presidency in upcoming presidential elections.

“We are calling for the establishment of a national interim government until holding a fair public election,” Gorran said in the statement. “It should be reestablished on a healthy national basis,” the statement read. The statement also called on the authorities responsible for what happened in Kirkuk to “resign as they had announced in the media that they will take responsibility for any bad consequences of the referendum.” It calls for an immediate withdrawal of the Iraqi armed forces which include Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi from Kirkuk city saying holding a referendum cannot justify their attack on the city and violating the achievements and national rights of the Kurds.

Gorran also urges the international community to put an end to this “destructive war” and not allow the Iraqi government to pose threats to the security of people. Gorran which is largely seen as a major opposition party in the Kurdish political arena accuses the KDP and PUK of endangering “the people, achievements and the future of our nation” due to holding “a short-sighted referendum.” The Change Movement (Gorran) blames the KDP and PUK, the two Kurdish parties possessing military forces, for any possible problems which may face the people of Kurdistan. Others blame Gorran for complaining about political rivals while doing little to nothing other than lip service to protect the Kurdistan region militarily. It is worth noting that Masoud Barzani, earlier this month, stressed that neither he nor members of his family would run in the Kurdistan region’s upcoming presidential elections.

F/AK & CH/L – nsnbc 17.1o.2017

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