The Iraqi attack on Peshmergas-controlled Kirkuk continued on 16 October and, as a result Iraqis forces, allegedly according to Kurds backed by Iranian Quds (special forces of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – IRGC), seized the city.
The Kurds retreated rather than fought, which led to mutual accusations between the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to have abandoned the city. Internecine struggle thus continues to plague Kurdish actions and capacity to attain objectives.
For previous and other signals check the
Most seriously, the General Command of Kurdistan’s Peshmerga Forces considers this Iraqi move as a “flagrant declaration of war against the nation of Kurdistan” (see letter below). This let us expect a further hardening of the Iraqi Kurds position, which would probably involve the spread of military clashes.
The current withdrawal of Peshmergas would then indicate a focus on the Kurdish area proper, getting ready to repel attacks by the Iraqis forces. Indeed, on 17 October, the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) Iraqi Shiite militia also took control of Shingal in Yazidi territory, as the Peshmergas also withdrew there.
The twin actions in Kirkuk and Shingal show first the Iraqi government resolve, which heightens the odds to see a continuation of at least skirmishes between Kurds and Iraqi forces.
Both actors are thus ready and willing to fight, which indeed will probably lead to military combat, notably if the Iraqi forces attack Kurdish positions held before the war against the Islamic State started.
Then, the action in Shingal, an area crucial for the route to Syria, furthermore carried out by the Hashd al-Shaabi, could also further indicate Iranian involvement and interest in opening up to the least a friendly passage towards the Mediterranean Sea (see previous signal).
It also seems to correspond to the perception of the General Command of Kurdistan’s Peshmerga Forces as explained in the letter of Iranian involvement in the current situation in Iraq. Then the stress on Iranian implication would not only be an attempt at swaying American positions.
We would thus continue to see a strengthened Iranian involvement (for further details and impact see previous signal).
Turkey also moved in Iraq, agreeing to close its airspace, which is in itself escalating as the Kurds find themselves boxed in, and , taking into account their resolve and feeling of being victim of an injustice considering their role in the war against the Islamic State, are pushed towards fighting.
The other actors seem – as far as open source and reported moves are concerned – still be wondering how to handle the situation beyond insisting the concerned parties should solve the issue peacefully.
“Beloved citizens of KurdistanPublic opinion inside and outside KurdistanThe Hashd al-Shaabi forces affiliated with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force led by Eqbalpur, in cooperation with Iraqi forces started a broad attack on Kirkuk and its surrounding areas this morning, October 16, 2017. This attack is a flagrant declaration of war against the nation of Kurdistan.This attack, waged by the Iraqi government, Hashd al-Shaabi and forces associated with the Headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, is in retaliation against the people of Kurdistan who have asked for freedom. It is revenge against the honorable people of Kirkuk who have shown bravery.Unfortunately, some officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) helped this plot against the Kurdistan nation and committed a great and historic treason against Kurdistan and the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Kurdistan under the PUK flag. These officials have left some sensitive places for the Hashd forces and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards without fighting and have abandoned Mr. Kosrat [Rasul] alone.We declare this to every party that this attack by the Hashd and Iraqi forces was launched by American weapons, armored vehicles, tanks and other coalition weapons. These American weapons have been given to the Iraqi army and Hashd under the name of the war on ISIS. This was done at a time when the Peshmerga, also in the fight against ISIS, were not given necessary weapons to defend themselves against the terrorists.We hereby reassure the people of Kurdistan that Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces is defending bravely with high morale on every front despite having some impurity on the part of some officials and plots by the Iraqi government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. We also reiterate that it is impossible for the will of the people of Kurdistan to be broken by these plots and also impossible for us to allow the enemies of the people of Kurdistan to succeed.We call upon all the real Peshmerga of the country and the resilient and enemy-defeating people to do all they can to resist and defeat the attackers. The first person responsible for selling this war to the people of Kurdistan is Abadi’s government that should pay a heavy price for this unfairness.General Command of Kurdistan’s Peshmerga Forces”
Turkey’s cabinet agreed on Monday to close its air space to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and said work had started to hand over the main land border crossing into the autonomous region to the central Iraqi government.