Kaya Derin Ozkan
Kirkuk the oil rich land in northern Iraq, formerly held by the KRI (Kurdish Region of Iraq) has been recaptured by Iraqi forces. Thousands of Kurds have fled the now war-torn lands of Kirkuk, whilst Iraqi forces are marching in and tearing down posters, flyers and flags of the KRI. Iraqi forces advanced rapidly through the northern borders of the country recapturing territory and the two largest oil fields from the Kurds. The Bai Hasan and Avana oil fields account for about 250,000 barrels of production a day of the 650,000 the autonomous Kurdish region exported to finance its operations.
A day after seizing Kirkuk, a city of a million people, Baghdad’s troops took back towns and the countryside, with the Kurds retreating without a fight. Their loss deals an economic blow to Kurdish efforts to declare independence from the central government in Baghdad. Kurds voted in a referendum last month for a separate state, but Baghdad declared the vote illegal.
Iranian government officials, too, were celebrating the win in Kirkuk, as they also have significant Kurdish populations within their lands. which the Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, had been planning to annex by including it within the boundaries in which the referendum was held. “We were never going to let a Zionist project like this claim Kirkuk,” said another senior leader of the Shia-led forces, known as the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs). “Kirkuk is central to Iraq’s economy and it will never belong to Barzani.”
The US, which was vehemently opposed to the ballot – especially the decision to include Kirkuk – insisted that despite the latest Iraqi move the areas that the central government has “seized” remain disputed.
Overall the Iraqi government is fighting on all sides, on one hand fighting against IS(Islamic State), and the KRI on another. But how far does the kurdish conflict go? The kurds are an ethnic group that have desired an independent nation from their time in the Ottoman Empire. The KRI was an autonomous nation due to the Gulf War of 1991 but was later deemed as a semi-autonomous region after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They are also the fourth largest ethnic group in the middle east. Their ambitions of an independence have been suppressed through military dominance and ethnic cleansings by Iran, Turkey, and Iraq.
To conclude, the Kurds will continue to strive to establish an independent Kurdistan recognized by the UN.