(TFC) – The War for Kurdish Independence may have started. Iraqi forces attacked oil fields and two military bases in Kirkuk in an attempt to take control of the province. The province has been under Kurdish control since 2014 when the Kurds liberated it from ISIS forces.
The province is disputed and this attack was the expected first move for Iraqi forces. While the Iraqi government is claiming its forces were ordered to avoid conflict, that is not what happened, nor is it likely any such order was given. Multiple firefights and exchanges of mortars and artillery have occurred. According to a statement from the government on Twitter:
“Commander-in-Chief Haider Al Abadi has instructed Iraqi Army, Federal Police, CTS [Counter Terrorism Service] to secure bases & federal installations in Kirkuk province. The PM orders ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] to cooperate with Peshmerga and avoid confrontations, and to protect all civilians in the province.”
The reality is very different. The Baba Gurgur oil field is on fire, but remains in Kurdish hands as of 0600 GMT. Kurdish forces have destroyed at least one Abrams tank supplied to the Iraqi government by the United States. Several Humvees have also been destroyed or disabled.
The Kurdish Regional Security Council issued this statement:
The move by the Iraqi government is in direct contradiction to the results of the referendum, in which more than 90% of voters supported independence. The government in Bagdad demanded the Kurdish government nullify the election and the Kurds have refused to do so.
The United States and many western nations have actively opposed Kurdish independence and sought to keep the Kurds under the thumb of Bagdad.
The Fifth Column’s sources within the Kurdish government have indicated the Kurdish military will meet force with force on the battlefield. Though President Barzani issued a statement in support of defensive military action, soldiers expressed some worry the Kurdish politicians may sell out and take favors from Bagdad, but have vowed to continue the fight even if the politicians surrender. They indicated the willingness to force insurrection if necessary to maintain the security of their borders and their people.
Most non-Kurdish analysts see the Kurds losing the province of Kirkuk to the Iraqi government, but maintaining the rest of their borders unless the western power intervene. The Iraqi government couldn’t defeat ISIS without Kurdish help. In open conflict, without interference, it will not be able to defeat Kurdish forces.