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2017 Iraqi–Kurdish conflict
Part of Iraqi Civil War (2014–present) and the
Iraqi–Kurdish conflict
Iraqi–Kurdish conflict map.png
Map of the areas of control as of late October, 2017
  •   De facto border (largely disputed)
  •   Other disputed borders
  • Controlled by the Iraqi Government:
      Unrecognised areas of the Kurdistan Region
      Rest of Iraq
  • Controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government:
      Recognised areas of the Kurdistan Region
      Unrecognised areas of the Kurdistan Region
      Area outside the Kurdistan Region
  •   Controlled by the Sinjar Alliance
  •   Controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
Date15 October 2017 – present
(4 years, 8 months, 2 weeks and 3 days)
LocationNorthern Iraq
Result Ongoing
Territorial
changes
  • The Iraqi Government regains control over the city of Kirkuk, and over the towns of Daquq, Sinjar, Tuz Khurmatu, Jalawla, Altun Kupri, Khanaqin, Zummar, Makhmur, Rabia, and Kifri, along with the surrounding oil fields and airports
Belligerents

Iraqi Kurdistan Iraqi Kurdistan


PKK[1][2] (disputed)[3]
PDKI[4]
 Iraq
Supported by:
 Iran[5]
Commanders and leaders
Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani
(President of Iraqi Kurdistan, resigned on 1 Nov.)
Iraqi Kurdistan Kosrat Rasul Ali
(Vice President of Iraqi Kurdistan)
Iraqi Kurdistan Najmiddin Karim
(ex-Kirkuk governor)
Iraqi Kurdistan Wahid Bakuzi[6]
(Head of KDP branch in Zumar)

Iraq Fuad Masum
(President of Iraq)
Iraq Haider al-Abadi
(Commander in chief)
Iraq Othman al-Ghanmi
(Chief of Staff of Iraqi army)
File:Popular Mobilization Forces (Iraq) logo vector.svg Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis
(Deputy Chairman of Popular Mobilization Committee)
File:Popular Mobilization Forces (Iraq) logo vector.svg Yılmaz Neccar[7]
(Turkmen PMU commander)


Iran Qasem Soleimani
(General commander of IRGC, claimed by KRG)
Turkey Hakan Fidan
(Chief of MİT, claimed by PUK)[8]
Units involved

Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga

HAK-R[9]

PDKI Peshmerga[citation needed] PKK

Sinjar Alliance

Iraq Iraqi Army

Iraqi Turkmen Front[11]


PUK Peshmerga (Some factions)[4]
Strength
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses

105 killed, 200 wounded, 45 captured in battle of Kirkuk [12] (PUK claim)

60 killed, 150 wounded (Peshmerga ministry claims) in Altun Kupri, Makhmour, Faysh Khabur and Zummar [13]
180+ killed and wounded (Kurdish claim)[14][15]
400 Kurdish civilians killed, 200 missing in Kirkuk (per Kurdish Media)[16][17]
183,000 displaced (per United Nations)[18]



The 2017 Iraqi–Kurdish conflict is an ongoing armed conflict in and around the Kurdish region of northern Iraq that began on 15 October 2017, shortly after the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum in 2017 held on September 25. The diplomatic crisis between the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi Kurdish government (also known as the Kurdish Regional Government) escalated into a conflict, initiated by the Iraqi Government, which resulted in the Battle of Kirkuk (2017). The conflict led to the Iraqi Kurds’ loss of half the territory they controlled as well as their main revenue source from Kirkuk’s oilfields.[19]

Background

After the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum in 2017 which was facilitated by President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, in September 2017, Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi made a demand to 'cancel' the referendum result, and called on the KRG to initiate dialogue "in the framework of the constitution".[20] In October, Iraq began to move its forces into areas seized by the KRG after the entry of ISIL, and all the disputed areas outside the Kurdish Region, including Kirkuk.[21][22]

Events

On 16 October 2017, the Kurdish Peshmerga ignored a deadline given by Iraq to withdraw. This led to the Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed PMU retaking Kirkuk and its province on 15 October 2017. Within 15 hours, the city of Kirkuk, and the nearby K-1 Air Base, along with surrounding oilfields, were retaken by Iraqi forces.[23] The international coalition described the events as "...coordinated movements, not attacks...", with most Peshmerga withdrawing without much of a fight.[24] This was due to the fact, that Hero, and Bafel Talabani who control the PUK Peshmerga struck a deal with the Iraqis to withdraw without a fight without telling the KDP Peshmerga. This in turn led to the collapse of Kurdish defences, and led to massive accusations of betrayal on part of the Talabani family by the KDP, as a day before the battle of Kirkuk both parties met in Dukan and agreed to fight.[25] On the same day Iraqi forces advanced on and captured the city of Tuz Khurmatu in the Saladin Province, 60 km south of Kirkuk,[26] and also Kifri in the Diyala Governorate.[27]

On 17 October 2017, ISIS attacked the villages of Makha, and Twelha, just north of Kirkuk.[28] The Iraqi advance also continued, with further gains including Khanaqin near the Iranian border as well as Jalawla, Bashiqa and Sinjar towards Syria.[29]

A statement from the Iraqi military on 18 October 2017 confirmed that the Mosul dam and other previously Kurdish-held territory in Nineveh province had been taken from the Peshmerga.[30] Ali Akbar Khafaji, an Iraqi police officer, claimed eight PMU fighters and one Peshmerga fighter were killed in clashes that broke out after PMU didn't heed warning of Peshmerga not to advance on Mosul dam.[31] On 19 October 2017, According to Erbil's governor, 100,000 ethnic Kurds had fled the city of Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu, following the victory by Iraqi forces, with 18,000 taking shelter in Erbil and Suleimaniya, .[32] The next day, Hemin Hawrami, a senior assistant to KRG President Masoud Barzani, said in a post on Twitter that 57,000 families from Kirkuk were in need of "immediate assistance" after arriving in various parts of Iraqi Kurdistan and taking shelter in unfinished housing units, having fled from "violence, looting and crimes" perpetrated by the Iranian-trained and largely Shi'ite Popular Mobilisation Forces.[33] Kirkuk police have called on the media not to publish rumors.[34] The United Nations released a statement that it was concerned about reports of violence of forced displacement of Kurdish civilians,[35] and urged that the perpetrators be brought to justice.[36] It was further reported that UN relief offices received reports that in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, 150 houses were burned and 11 houses were blown up.[33][36][37] Has been recognized PM Haider al-Abadi's of incidents in Tuz Khurmatu caused by what he described as extremist elements from both sides and his decision to send the Iraqi army.[37] He PM accused social media instigators of posting fake videos of the alleged violations.[35] Niqash website confirmed the Increase of false News. and hundreds of fake videos & pictures. A leaders on both sides say it’s leading to a dangerous escalation of tensions In Northern Iraq.[38]

On 19 October 2017, one person was killed and three wounded in a protest against Iraqi forces in Khanaqin city. A group of about 150 to 200 unarmed youth carrying Kurdistan flags were protesting, demanding that Iraqi forces leave the city, Col. Azad Isa, Khanaqin’s police chief, told Rudaw Kurdish Network.[39] Commander in chief has arrested a number of protection of the Diyala police commander, to bypass the law.[40] The demonstration was small but energetic, ending with some dancing before they all left. Many said they just wanted the local police to have a presence in town and were not concerned with the larger political struggle over Kurdish independence.[41]

On 20 October 2017, a battle took place in Altun Kupri as Iraqi forces moved towards it.[42] Iraq's Joint Operations Command stated that Peshmerga had used MILAN missiles in the battle which led to Iraqi criticism as these were given by Germany to the Peshmerga in order to be used against ISIL. The Peshmerga however denied they had used the missiles.[43] Earlier, Germany said it will temporarily stop training Kurdish Peshmerga forces.[44] Training, however, began again after a week's interruption.[45] Kurdish sources also reported over 150 PMU fighters were killed or wounded.[46] This was considered to be the first significant battle in which Peshmerga put up heavy resistance, whereas in other disputed areas they withdrew after the arrival of Iraqi forces.[47] Iraqi forces have seized complete control of Kirkuk province.[48] Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) meanwhile denied that Hashd al-Shaabi fighters were present among the troops that advanced on Altan Kupri, claiming the troops were Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces. It added that two soldiers were killed and five others wounded in the clashes that erupted when they captured the town.[49]

On 24 October 2017, Peshmerga KDP forces were told hat the checkpoint in Makhmur would be handed over as per agreements between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional government. However, upon arrival at the checkpoint, the Peshmerga surrounded the Iraqi troops. Twenty Iraqi soldiers were arrested,[50] two killed, and eight more were wounded by Peshmerga.[51] The PUK accused the Peshmerga KDP of mistreating those who had been arrested by them,[52] and all Iraqi soldiers were released after Peshmerga command intervened against local Peshmerga garrison acting against orders.[53]

On 25 October 2017, Iraqi forces seized the Rabia border crossing with Syria after the withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish forces.[54] On the same day, KRG made a statement offering to freeze the results of the referendum as part of an offer to defuse the crisis. The statement also called for a ceasefire and a halt to all military operations in the northern region.[55] Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi however rejected the proposal, adding that the Iraqi central government "will accept only the canceling of the referendum and following the constitution."[56]

On 26 October 2017 at 0600 hrs, Iraqi federal police and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) began a four-pronged assault on Peshmerga positions in Zummar; Bardiya and Hamad Agha towards Ain Ouais, Mosharaf towards Sufaya and from Rabia towards Mahmoudiya.[57] The Kurdistan Security Council claimed that Peshmerga had destroyed three tanks, five US-supplied Humvees and one Badger and repelled the advances from the Iraqi forces to retake Faysh Khabur.[58] However, Iraqi forces and PMF managed to retake two villages, which were Jazronia & Mahmoudiya, as they attempted to advance towards the town of Faysh Khabur, near the Iraqi-Syrian-Turkish border triangle.[59][60] Some reports meanwhile indicated that Masoud Barzani might announce stepping down as president of the KRG.[61]

On 27 October, the Kurdish Regional Government stated that Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had agreed to stop fighting in northern Iraq, although the status of any ceasefire remained unclear. A CJTF-OIR spokesman earlier said the deal covered all fronts of conflict. However, he later denied that truce had been officially agreed.[62] The coalition's spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon, denied that a ceasefire had been reached, retreating from his earlier announcement of a ceasefire between both sides, tweeting, "I incorrectly said in an interview with (Kurdish TV) Rudaw English that there was a cease-fire between Iraqi and Kurdish forces."[63] Iraqi PM al-Abadi later ordered a 24-hour truce to allow a peaceful deployment of Iraqi troops at border crossings with the Kurdistan region.[64]

Iraqi and Peshmerga commanders held talks in Mosul on 28 October for resolving the crisis over the disputed areas.[65] Amidst the crisis, KRG President Masoud Barzani announced on 29 October that he would not be asking parliament to renew his presidency when it expired on 1 November, transfering his presidental powers to the institutions of the KRG which include the legislature and judiciary.[66] Iraqi state TV meanwhile said that a second round of talks between both sides was started during the day.[67]

On 31 October, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that Iraq had regained control of all disputed areas. At a press conference, al-Abadi also accused certain KRG-linked media outlets of "openly inciting violence against federal forces".[68] Abadi announced that the government planned to start paying salaries of Peshmerga and civil servants working for KRG, stating, "We will soon be able to pay all the salaries of the Peshmerga and the employees of the region."[69] Anadolu News Agency meanwhile reported that Turkish and Iraqi forces had moved towards the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing that morning. The Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yıldırım told members of his AK party in parliament that the border gate had been "handed over to the central government". An Iraqi border police captain showed images of the Iraqi flag flying at the crossing, saying that it was "officially under the full control of the Iraqi government." An Iraqi military statement however confirmed that only a delegation led by the chief-of-staff Othman al-Ghanmi had visited Ibrahim Khalil and Faysh Khabur to determine military and security requirements for taking control.[70] Iraqi troops were however deployed at the border crossing with Iraqi positions set up between Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish checkpoints, according to a security source in Baghdad. KRG officials meanwhile stated they had not relinquished control of the crossing, with Hoshyar Zebari stating that discussions to allow Iraqi oversight at the border.[71] On 1 November, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command accused the Kurdish military of reneging on the draft agreement for the federal military to redeploy federal forces in disputed areas and border crossing points. It also accused them of moving their forces and building new defensive lines during the negotiation period to deter the redeployment of the federal Iraqi forces.[72] It also threatened to resume their military operations to capture Kurdish-held territory.[73] The KRG on 2 November offered joint deployment as Faysh Khabur, which its defense department stated was part of a "deconfliction" proposal on 31 October, with other proposals including ceasefire on all fronts, continued cooperation in fight against ISIL and joint deployment in disputed areas.[74] KRG on the same day also accused the central Iraqi government was "not interested" in the deal of joint deployment at the border with Turkey.[75]

Reactions

International

  •  Turkey: In a statement on 16 October 2017, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it supported Iraq's move to "...restore peace and stability in the country, including Kirkuk...", and warned the KRG that it will be held responsible for allowing PKK to penetrate the city. It added that Turkey was closely monitoring Iraq's steps to "restore its constitutional sovereignty over Kirkuk, a homeland for Turkmens for centuries, after the illegitimate referendum conducted by the KRG."[76] Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ held KRG President Barzani responsie for regional disputes stating, "Barzani should own up to his mistakes. Only saying ‘I’ve frozen the referendum’ is not enough [...], the cancelation of the referendum is needed."[77]
  • United States: President Donald Trump expressed disappointment that the two sides were fighting while stating United States was not taking sides.[78] The Pentagon urged Iraqi and Kurdish forces to avoid "additional escalatory actions" after a skirmish over Kirkuk city.[79] It described the Iraqi takeover of Kirkuk as a "coordinated movement, not attacks".[80] The State Department urged the Iraqi government to avoid clashes by limiting movement of federal troops to those coordinated with the KRG. It also added, "The reassertion of federal authority over disputed areas in no way changes their status – they remain disputed until their status is resolved in accordance with the Iraqi constitution."[81] Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on both parties to resolve the conflict through dialogue.[82]
  •  Iran: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi amidst Iraq's clashes with ISIL and the Kurds. Office of the Supreme Leader of Iran issued a statement that Khamenei "gave his support for measures taken by the Iraqi government to defend the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq."[83]
  •  Germany: Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on all parties to immediately halt the miltary actions and engage in direct dialogue. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced that Germany will suspend its mission to train Peshmerga because of the conflict.[84] On 20 October, a spokesman for the defense ministry said that the mission will be resumed if the clashes don't worsen.[85] The training mission was restarted later. The Defense Ministry spokesman said on 23 October that Germany will ensure that weapons supplied by it will only be used against ISIL.[86]
  •  France: Élysée Palace released a statement saying, "The president of the republic asked for everything possible to be done to avoid conflict between Iraqis and that, within the limits of the unity of Iraq and its constitution, a dialogue taking account of the rights of the Kurds and the minorities should be held between [the Iraqi Kurdish capital] Erbil and Baghdad." President Emmanuel Macron welcomed establishment of a comittee to discuss joint deployment of both sides in disputed areas.[87]
  •  Israel: According to Israeli officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was lobbying world powers to prevent further setbacks to Iraqi Kurds as they lose ground to Baghdad’s army, Israeli officials say. Israel is the only major power that has endorsed statehood for Kurdish people.[88]
  •  Canada: The Canadian military supended its support to Iraqi forces and Peshmerga amid the clashes.[89]

Domestic

  • IraqIraqi Kurdistan Iraqi Kurdistan:
    • Opposition parties have demanded the dissolution of Barzani's administration.[90][91]
    • According to Nechirvan Barzani, the rival Talabani political family committed "a great and historic treason against Kurdistan".[19]
    • President Barzani on 29 October blamed the central government in Baghdad for the crisis, while adressing the Kurdistan region in the first televsied speech since the independence referendum stating, "They (Baghdad) used the referendum as an excuse. Their bad intentions were very clear from a long time ago."[92]

References

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  36. 36.0 36.1 "UPDATE 1-UN concerned by reports of forced displacement of Kurds in N. Iraq". 19 October 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-violations/update-1-un-concerned-by-reports-of-forced-diplacement-of-kurds-in-niraq-idUSL8N1MU57Y. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 "UN Expresses Concern about Reports of Violence in Tuz Khurmatu, in Kirkuk [EN/AR/KU"] (in en). ReliefWeb. 19 October 2017. https://reliefweb.int/report/iraq/un-expresses-concern-about-reports-violence-tuz-khurmatu-kirkuk-enarku. 
  38. Qader, Histyar. "Dangerous Growth Of Fake News Increases Tensions In Northern Iraq" (in en). Niqash. http://www.niqash.org/en/articles/security/5763/. 
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