Iraqi forces seized control of international airport, oil fields, the K1 military base and the Tuz Khurmatu district south-east of Kirkuk on Monday, according to the statement of the Iraqi military media office.
The statement added that the Iraqi forces backed by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have launched an operation to “impose security in Kirkuk”
Relations between the Iraqi federal government and Kurdish Regional Government have been suffering since the Kurdistan independence referendum in September. The referendum was faced by regional and international rejections.
Also, the Iraqi government took several measures against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), including suspending direct international air flights to and from the region and demanding the international community to do not deal with the region regarding oil.
Kurdish leaders rejected on Sunday the Iraqi demand to cancel the outcome of the referendum, in order to hold talks and negotiations.
Professor of National Security at the Iraqi Al-Nahrain University, Hussein Allawi justifies the military operation in Kirkuk. He believes that “negative messages” have been delivered to the [Iraqi] political leadership from the Kurdish leadership, so the federal government intervened in the city to “impose law and apply the constitutional measures, to continuing the normal life in Kirkuk and disputed areas.”
“Escalation was expected between the Peshmerga and federal forces,” moreover, Allawi believes that “balance of power is in favour of the federal forces, in addition to the regional and international support”.
On Monday, the Iraqi-Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement that the Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga have “destroyed at least five Humvee armoured vehicles being used by the state-sanctioned militias following the attack south of the city.”
Additional Kurdish forces took up arms in Kirkuk coming from Erbil to support Kirkuk “against any possible attack by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias”, according to Kurdish media.
Governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim called on Kurdish people to “defend the city”.
Hemin Hawrami, Senior Assistant to Kurdish Regional Government said on Twitter that “President Barzani [of KRG] ordered all Peshmerga units not to initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting, then Peshmerga are given green light to use every power to stand against them.”
Kirkuk is a multi-ethnic oil-rich city, home to about a million Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. Peshmerga forces took control of the city in 2014, after the Iraqi army fled a major offensive by the Islamic State group (IS).