Monday, October 16, 2017

Oh Holy Crap

Have the Iraqis have launched a military operation to take Kirkuk from the Kurds?

This is bad:

Iraqi Kurdish officials said early Monday that federal forces and state-backed militias have launched a “major, multi-pronged” attack aimed at retaking the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, causing “lots of casualties” in fighting south of the city.

Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga were digging in at the edge of the international airport after withdrawing from their positions outside the city. Hundreds of armed Kurdish residents were taking up positions inside the city anticipating an attack.

Is this a signal sent by Iraq with limited military force or an effort to take Kirkuk?

UPDATE: This looks like a major Iraqi effort, including a thrust into Kirkuk city itself to seize the abandoned governor's office.

Although there isn't much fighting as the Kurds pull back, there has been artillery fire by both sides.

American are--I'm sure rather frantically--trying to mediate.

UPDATE: God almighty, does everything in that part of the world have to have a high degree of difficulty?

Iraqi government forces captured the major Kurdish-held oil city of Kirkuk on Monday, responding to a Kurdish referendum on independence with a bold lightning strike that transforms the balance of power in the country.

It is unclear if the capture of the governor's office is assumed to mean the entire city is Iraqi-controlled.

What with my suspicious mind, I'll guess the Iranians had a hand in persuading Baghdad to do this.

On the bright side, so far there has been little shooting. The Kurds could make this a real fight if they choose to do so.

Let's hope our mediation can settle this before so much blood is spilled that nobody can choose to back down short of victory or defeat.

UPDATE: More on the issue. And note that of the two major Iraqi Kurdish factions, the KDP and the PUK, the PUK largely avoided fighting--and is also the faction that leans toward Iran.

UPDATE: There hasn't been too much in the news since this initial move. Is it really just a limited grab of oil resources to be a cheap crippling of a potential Kurdish state?

Iraqi forces took control of nearly all the oil fields in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk on Tuesday, dashing Kurdish hopes of creating a viable independent state.

Those fields are nearly a third of oil resources in the Kurdish region. Although given the "oil curse" that crowds out any other economic activity, would that be a blessing rather than a curse if it forces an independent Kurdistan to open their economy to all other businesses?

The Iraqi government is calling for talks now that they have a bargaining chip.

And Iraq has the backing of Iran and Turkey in this phase. Which is what I noted shortly before the limited military operation began.

Oh, and as I said, I suspect Iran convinced Iraq to move against the Kurds--which the Kurds of Syria are bound to notice as they consider what to do post-Raqqa.

UPDATE: Kirkuk and Iran's influence.

UPDATE: A late but useful overview of the very real limits on Kurdish freedom of action, including Kurdish internal divisions. It may be that Iraq didn't work with Turkey and Iran as much as buckle under to their pressure.