Conflict in Kirkuk
Tensions boiled over on October 16th as fighting broke out between Kurdish and Iraqi forces after Iraqi forces seized the oil rich city of Kirkuk.
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew from the city in the face an Iraqi assault after engaging in some minor skirmishes to the south of the city, resulting in the destruction of five Iraqi Humvees, according to reports from Al-Jazeera.
Kirkuk, situated in the north-east of Iraq is a multiethnic city comprised of a diverse mixture of primarily Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen.
Although technically outside of KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) control according to the Iraqi constitution, many Kurds view it as part of Kurdistan and wish to keep control of it due in part to the historical grievances the Kurdish population of the region suffered under Saddam. The city is also of strategic and economic interest to both sides due to the rich oil reserves present in the region.
The attack on the city was ordered by the prime minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi in retaliation to the September 25th Kurdish vote for independence.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of independence, with election monitors giving numbers of up to 92% of voters in Iraqi Kurdistan supporting independence. The vote was not recognized by the Iraqi government, and was opposed by all regional and international actors with the exception of Israel.
In response to the vote Iran and Turkey, countries who also have a large Kurdish population within their borders, levied sanctions against the KRG.
The town was originally taken by Kurdish forces on June 12th 2014, as they filled a power vacuum created after the Iraqi army fled the city following the success of the ISIS 2014 Northern Iraq Offensive, in which ISIS seized control of the nearby city of Tikrit as well as neighboring areas in Syria. The city had remained under Kurdish control up until now.
On October 18th the KRG proposed an immediate ceasefire, a suspension of the referendum results, and to “start a dialogue with the federal government based on the Iraqi constitution”. Both sides reached an agreement to suspend hostilities on October 27th, and the ceasefire came into effect at 1 a.m the following morning.
In the aftermath of the conflict Kurdish president Massoud Barzani stated that he would not seek another term. His term ended on November 2nd, and the responsibility of filling the now vacant position will fall onto the Kurdish parliament.
As of the time of print there have been no further developments on the conflict.