Iraqi counter-offensive roils Kurdish Regional Government
2 November 2017
With the backing of Turkey and Iran, Iraq’s Shia-dominated central government is expanding its offensive against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) based in Ebril. Iraqi security forces have already dramatically reduced the territory controlled by the KRG, forcing Kurdish Peshmerga militia to withdraw from Kirkuk and virtually all the other areas outside the KRG that the Peshmerga seized from the Islamic State (ISIS) beginning in 2014.
Now, Baghdad appears determined to take advantage of the crisis precipitated by the KRG’s failed bid to create an independent Kurdish state to significantly reduce its autonomy within Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed Baghdad will take control of the KRG’s external borders, placing all international entry points, including airports, under control of forces loyal to the central government. Baghdad is especially anxious to gain control of the border at Faysh Khabur, which is an important conduit for oil exports and lies at the junction of the borders of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Al-Abadi has also called for the Peshmerga to be dramatically downsized or incorporated into the central government’s security forces and says Baghdad should control all oil exports and be empowered to audit the KRG’s budget.
As the result of last month’s loss of oil fields near Kirkuk and smaller fields in Ninewah province, the KRG has already seen its oil-export revenue decline by more than half.
The Peshmerga have thus far retreated in the face of the advance by the larger, better-equipped Iraqi forces. But Peshmerga commanders are now vowing to “choose death” over any further retreat, raising the prospect of bloody clashes that could…