Kurds on High Alert as Iraqi Forces Mass near Kirkuk
The Kurdish Regional Government deployed thousands of troops around the disputed oil city of Kirkuk for fear of an attack by Iraqi government army and militia, a senior official said. “Thousands of heavily armed Peshmerga units are now completely in their positions around Kirkuk,” a top aide to Kurdistan regional president Masoud Barzani posted on social media on Friday. According to Al Jazeera, the alert came after the Kurdish authorities accused the Iraqi government of massing forces in readiness for a reported offensive to seize Kurdish-held oil fields around Kirkuk, as tensions soar after a vote for independence last month. Kirkuk province is the location of northern Iraq’s main oil fields and, even though far more crude is now pumped from the south, it is bitterly disputed between Baghdad and the Kurds. Baghdad continues to reject decades-old Kurdish ambitions to incorporate Kirkuk and other historically Kurdish-majority areas in their autonomous region.