Iraqi Parliament Orders Deployment of Troops to Kurdish Peshmerga Territories

Following Kurdistan’s overwhelming vote in favor of seceding from Iraq on Monday, Baghdad’s parliament announced a series of measures intended to prevent their independence, including deploying Iraqi troops to Kurdish Peshmerga held areas.

The Kurdish outlet Kurdistan24 reported Thursday that the Iraqi Parliament, boycotted by its Kurdish members, had “mandated the Iraqi government take strict measures against the Region that included deploying military forces in the Peshmerga controlled areas.”

The move does not appear to affect areas of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that Baghdad accepts as Kurdistan, but instead it affects border territories like Kirkuk, which Iraq claims is outside the scope of Kurdistan but has been controlled by the Peshmerga since the Iraqi military surrendered it to jihadist fighters in 2014. The KRG has developed the city since then, profiting from its rich oil reserves.

The KRG included Kirkuk in the independence referendum, angering Baghdad.

“The government has to bring back the oilfields of Kirkuk under the control of the oil ministry,” the Iraqi parliament’s decree read, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, incorporating the demand of returning Kirkuk’s oil fields to Baghdad in the same decree calling for a return of Iraqi troops to the city. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, it continues, must “issue orders for the security forces to deploy in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk.” Hurriyet notes that Iraq’s main claim to Kirkuk revolves around its ethnically diverse population, which includes Arabic and Turkmen communities as well as Kurds.

The New York Times notes that there are some Iraqi troops—and some Iran-backed Shiite militias, which Iraq legalized shortly before the battle for Mosul against the United States—in greater Kirkuk, but not in the city, as the Islamic State maintains a small presence on its outskirts.

The Parliament also approved a series of other measures against Erbil, the capital of the KRG, which included measures Abadi had announced this week, including demands for other countries to withdraw diplomatic representation from Erbil and the seizure of Kurdistan’s airports and border crossings. “All the border crossings outside of the control of the Federal Government of Iraq will be closed, and all goods exchanged at those borders are considered illegal,” the Parliament declared.

Kurdistan is seeking independence from Iraq after taking the lead in the fight against the Islamic State in the country, keeping ISIS from controlling centers like Kirkuk and playing a major role in liberation territories in the nation’s north. Estimates suggest that over 90 percent of Kurds voted “yes” to independence. The KRG has stated repeatedly that the vote was merely a democratic attempt to issue a mandate to negotiate an exit from Iraq, not a call for immediate secession, and that it is seeking talks with Baghdad.

“Let’s reach an agreement within two months, and become good neighbours,” Masoud Barzani, the president of the KRG, said in a speech Monday night. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani echoed that sentiment in remarks addressed to the Turkish government, which has threatened a variety of actions against Kurdistan for holding the referendum. “We are not and will not threaten Turkey’s national security, and neither will we intervene in the Turkish affairs, not today, and neither in the future,” he said. “We want to be a good neighbor.”

“We are not ready to discuss or have a dialogue about the results of the referendum because it is unconstitutional,” Abadi said on Monday, blaming the KRG for “most of the problems of the region” and accusing Erbil of “corruption and mis-administration.”

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