Iraq Fights Kurds After Independence Referendum

Iraqi Forces Seize Key Kurdish Cities with US Approval

Iraq, Kurds, Iraq Kurds Fighting, Kurdistan, Kirkuk, Baghdad

US-backed Iraqi government forces have captured key Kurdish territory in recent rounds of fighting with US-backed Kurdish forces.  That’s right, once again the US finds itself in a position like has so often in the Syrian war of witnessing two force fighting each other that have both been supported by the US.

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Some of the key areas taken include the K1 military base, the Baba Gurguor Oil and Gas Fields, as well as Iraqi state-owned oil company offices.  According to Baghdad, the Peshmerga have simply withdrawn, not offering military resistance.

The recent actions against the Kurds by Iraqi forces began a month ago after the Kurds in Iraq voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Iraqi state and form their own independent nation.  At the time of the vote, the Iraqi Prime Minister said the vote was unconstitutional.  Much of the type of rhetoric used by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, is very similar to the rhetoric being used by the Spanish government in response to a similar referendum and outcome in the region of Spain called Catalonia.

At the time of the referendum, the US remained somewhat ambiguous.  But in response to Iraq’s latest moves to crush the bid for Kurdish independence, the US has chosen to take an even more ambiguous stand, which is an effective tacit approval of Iraqi action.  The US has offered token neutrality when it responded to the conflict by saying they were “engaged with all parties in Iraq to de-escalate tension.”

Let me go ahead and de-gov that statement, “We realize we made a lot of promises to the Kurds because they were useful allies to us in the war against ISIS, but now that ISIS is mostly contained, the usefulness of the Kurds is now somewhat in doubt, whereas with Iraq, even though we have to share power with Iran, we have a regime that will most likely offer us favorable deals when it comes to the oil in their country.  So, yeah, we don’t want to look like backstabbers, we don’t want to look like unfaithful allies, so we’re just gonna pretend to be neutral and hope Iraq finishes off the Kurds pretty quickly.”

The Prime Minister of Iraq said about the recent military operations against Kirkuk in particular, “We call upon all citizens to co-operate with our heroic armed forces, which are committed to our strict directives to protect civilians in the first place, and to impose security and order, and to protect state installations and institutions.”

The Kurdistan Region Security Council has vowed to resist the assault on Kirkuk and claims that casualties are high in the ongoing fighting on that front.  From a BBC article:

Peshmerga spokesman Brig Gen Bahzad Ahmed told the Associated Press that the fighting south of Kirkuk had caused “lots of casualties”. He alleged that pro-government forces had also “burnt lots of houses and killed many people” in Tuz Khurmatu, 75km south of Kirkuk, and Daquq.

There was no way of verifying the reports, but a doctor at a hospital in Tuz Khurmatu told AFP news agency that two people had been killed by artillery fire.

The US government, however, is claiming that they’ve seen no attacks, only “co-ordinated movements.”  The US also claims that a “limited exchange” happened, but it was the result of a “misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.”

So in addition to attempting to playing the neutral, while the US stands by and allows Iraq to run roughshod over the Kurds, the US is also going to attempt to play Sergeant Shultz and say “I KNOW NOTHING!”

From antiwar.com, we get a more telling portrait of what’s going on in the fighting.

Thousands of carloads of Kurdish families have taken to the highway north of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, fleeing deeper into Iraqi Kurdistan in response to a surprise Iraqi military offensive, which seized the city with little fighting……

.…..We saw time and again when Iraqi forces seized Sunni Arab cities from ISIS that the militias would carry out revenge killings against civilians suspected of being in league with ISIS. Given how demonized Kurdish secessionist ambitions have been in Iraq in recent weeks, many Kurds fear similar killings will happen in Kirkuk, which is why many are taking no chances, and fleeing deeper into Kurdistan.

As for the Peshmerga abandoning their posts, we get a portrait of what the Kurds think of them from this Time article.

Armed Kurdish civilians set-up checkpoints in Kirkuk Monday morning as they tried to prevent Kurdish peshmerga fighters from evacuating the city as Iraqi government forces advanced.

The peshmerga left along with tens of thousands of fleeing civilians that jammed the road from Kirkuk to Erbil. Resident burnt tires and shouted “shame on you,” while some civilians pointed guns as the peshmerga departed.

By mid-afternoon, the Kurds had lost control of Kirkuk, Iraq’s most contested city. Young Arab men hung an Iraqi flag from a bridge as American-made Humvees rolled through the streets, closely followed by pick-up trucks filled with fighters from the mostly-Shia Popular Mobilization Forces.

“Now all Kirkuk can see this flag,” said Abdullah Gubal as he hung it over a billboard for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the leading Kurdish political party in Kirkuk……

“They sold Kirkuk,” said Ahmad Mohamed holding his Kalashnikov at the edge of the city with a group of angry Kurdish volunteer fighters pledging to go back and push the Iraqi forces out.

“This is shame on the Kurdish leaders and most of the Kurdish commanders in Kirkuk,” said Wyra Ali. “They didn’t fire one bullet from their weapons. They should defended Kirkuk, but they didn’t.”

The Kurds are finding themselves in a position of being outnumbered, with no support from their ally, the United States, which had been supporting them for as long as they were useful in rolling back ISIS.

President Donald Trump has made it clear in a statement on Monday that any aid the Kurds could be looking for from the US would not becoming.  The President has vowed that the US would not be taking sides in the conflict.

It is unlikely the Kurds will be able to offer direct resistance to the Iraqi occupation, but insurgency efforts are sure to follow.  Just how much the US will aid Iraq remains to be seen, but if you were a betting man, I’d put my money on this, the US will help Iraq as little as possible, but as much as they need to assure Iraq controls those valuable oil fields that lie inside the region claimed by the Iraqi Kurds.

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Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines.
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