Iraqi forces seize back more Kurdish-held territory
18 October 2017
The US-backed Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expanding military operations to take back territory being held by US- and German-trained and armed “peshmerga” militia loyal to the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Washington, Germany and other powers are applying immense diplomatic pressure on the KRG to submit.
Since early Monday morning, Iraqi government army, police and militia units have dislodged Kurdish forces from much of Kirkuk province, including the city of Kirkuk itself, its airport, nearby towns and, most significantly, some of northern Iraq’s largest oilfields.
Kurdish General Command issued a statement declaring Baghdad’s actions a “clear declaration of war against the people of the Kurdistan Region.” Apart from isolated incidents, however, reports indicate that the peshmerga have generally withdrawn without offering resistance.
Throughout yesterday, Iraqi forces in Nineveh province moved from the provincial capital Mosul into areas they did not control. A government-backed ethnic Yazadi-based militia occupied the strategic town of Sinjar on the Iraq-Syria border.
Reports indicate that as government troops advance, peshmerga are retreating from Khanaqin, a district in Diyala province that borders Iran to the south of the three provinces that formally comprise the KRG.
The KRG has long claimed that the areas now coming back under Baghdad’s control should be incorporated into its territory. KRG president and nationalist leader Masoud Barzani seized the opportunity to order peshmerga to occupy the disputed regions after the June 2014 offensive by Islamic State (ISIS) and the wholesale retreat of government forces from Mosul and large…