Maliki’s statement comes after a successful midnight offensive launched on Sunday night by the Iraqi military on the Kurdish Peshmerga to retake the strategic city of Kirkuk and its surrounding region.
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) could officially interpret this as an act of war, with some Kurdish politicians calling it a “new war”.
Two large oilfields critical to the Kurdish economy were captured outside Kirkuk as Kurdish forces departed the area, with reports saying Iraqi forces are preparing to annex further oil facilities in Khanaqin area.
The Iraqi oil ministry made clear that all oil facilities in the Kirkuk province surrounding the city was under government control by Tuesday.
The incursion into the major city comes three weeks after the autonomous Kurdistan Region held an independence referendum resulting in an overwhelming mandate to separate from Baghdad, which Iraq condemns.
Kirkuk, claimed by both Kurds and Baghdad, has a majority Kurdish population and was allowed to vote on Sept. 25.
Thousands of civilians returned to their homes in Kirkuk on Monday evening and Tuesday after fleeing from the city when Iraqi forces entered.
The Peshmerga have retreated from positions near the Iran-Iraq border, as Iraqi forces advance. There hasn’t been much conflict beyond skirmishes and artillery fire in and around Kirkuk up to this point.
Just weeks earlier, Kurdish and Iraqi forces were working in a U.S.-backed coalition with Shia militias to push Daesh out of the country’s northwest.
Kurds held Kirkuk since 2014 when Daesh (IS) swept through the northern regions during their “lightening offensive” when they captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
The Kurdish military wing, known as the Peshmerga, were credited with defending key positions outside Kirkuk as Iraqi soldiers largely retreated during the militant advance.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had denounced the vote as unconstitutional, but the Kurdistan Regional Government insisted on its legitimacy.
The United States has called for calm in the region, with President Donald Trump saying Washington would not “be taking sides.”
The governments of Turkey and Syria are both strongly against Kurdish independence due to their own large Kurdish minorities that could also attempt independence.
In Syria, the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led SDF has gained control over large swathes of territory after pushing back Daesh in wave after wave of attacks that also saw them capture so-called Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa on Tuesday.
More details to follow. Please refresh for the latest. Image 1 of Iraqi forces moving into Kirkuk on Oct. 16, 2017 from Stringer/Reuters.
Via The GH Post.