Iraq is heading to a military escalation between the Fedral Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Iraqi forces have launched a military operation to retake Kirkuk province from Peshmerga, a military force of the KRG, according to AFP.
#BREAKING Iraq army launches operation to retake Kirkuk province – general says
— AFP news agency (@AFP) 13 October 2017
“Iraqi armed force are advancing to retake their military positions that were taken over during the events of June 2014,” the general reportedly told AFP by telephone, asking not to be identified.
However, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command denied the start of the operation:
The reports followed deployment of additional Peshmerga force to the disputed oil-rich areas and Kirkuk city.
On October 11, the Kurdistan Region Security Council said that Iraqi forces were preparing to launch an attack on areas controlled by the KRG north of Mosul and south of Kirkuk.
— Blazing Fury (@FuryBlazing) 12 October 2017
— Son Kale Türkiye?? (@SonKaleTurkiye2) 13 October 2017
On October 13, the Peshmerga General Command said that the Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have been preparing to attack areas outside the oil-rich city of Kirkuk since Thursday night with “foreign backing,” according to the KRG-run media outlet Rudaw.
The entity added that the situation shows “dangerous indications for war and aggression against Kurdistan.”
Last night Popular Mobilization Forces and number of Iraqi Forces were deployed to attack Peshmerga-held areas, particularly around Kirkuk.
— Peshmerga Command (@GCPFKurdistan) 13 October 2017
On October 12, Peshmerga forces reopened the Mosul-Duhok and Mosul- Erbil highways after closing them for hours on October 11, according to Kurdish sources. Peshmerga claimed that the highways were closed to prevent an attack of Iraqi government forces on the Kurdistan Region.
“There are two roads connecting the Kurdistan Region to Mosul, one from Erbil and the other from Duhok. Both have been closed. We are waiting orders from our superiors to open them again,” Arif Taefoor, commander of the Peshmerga told the Iraqi-Kurdish Rudaw news network.
Iraqi sources reported that the Peshmerga deployed more units in Kirkuk city, and north of Mosul city. From its side, the Iraqi security forces and the PMU also deployed more units north of Mosul city, and south of Kirkuk city, according to the sources.
The tensions between the Federal Government and the KRG will likely have a bad impact on the upcoming military operation against ISIS strongholds of al-Qa’im and Rawa in western Iraq.
Such negative effect was highly expected by many sides, and this questions the real motives behind the KRG decision to hold the Kurdistan Region independence referendum before clearing Iraq from ISIS. More accurate, only months before the last crucial battle against ISIS in Iraq.
However, Iraqi military source told the UAE-based Arab Sky News TV channel that the government forces “are ready to launch the battle of liberation of al-Qa’im and are not interested in any other battle”. The stament confirms that the Iraqi Federal Government is committed mainly to fight ISIS, although of the Kurdish pressure.