Baghdad moves to take Kirkuk by force
If Iraq implodes into civil war - again - it'll happen in the next few days.
Iraqi forces are advancing towards Kurdish-held sites in Kirkuk province.
They intend to take control of oil fields and an airbase in the disputed region, Kurdish security officials say.
The Kurds can't give up the Kirkuk oilfields without giving up the revenue required to fund an independent state.
The Iraqi troops were advancing alongside government-backed Shia militias south of Kirkuk city, Kurdish officials reported.
The Iraqi government says its aim is to "secure bases" and "federal installations" but "co-operate" with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
Hemin Hawrami, an aide to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, tweeted that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were "in full control" of the airbase.
He earlier said Kurdish leaders rejected the "military option" but were "ready to defend" the city against outside forces.
Baghdad has accused the Kurdistan administration of deploying outside fighters to Kirkuk, including from the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which it said was akin to a declaration of war.
The Iraqi Kurds deny this.
The peshmerga are much tougher and more numerous than ISIS was, but stronger than Baghdad...?
Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani, said in a post on Twitter that Peshmerga forces had been ordered "not to initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting", then they had the "green light to use every power" to respond.
Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Erbil, said that the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk had made a call to arms, "saying anybody with a weapon should take it up and defend the city".
Iraqi forces/PMF now advancing from Taza in South of Kirkuk in a major op w/ intention to enter the city and takeover K1 base & oil fields.
— KR Security Council (@KRSCPress) October 15, 2017
Also, the Kurds defeating Baghdad would just mean Tehran and Ankara would attack.
Kirkuk might not be the only place that Baghdad is moving.
The Iraqi forces and mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi have started to move towards the Peshmerga controlled areas south and west of Kirkuk Monday night, Iraqi and Kurdish officials have
Clashes erupted on the Taza Khurmatu front, south of Kirkuk, a Peshmerga commander told Rudaw, with both sides exchanging fire involving heavy weaponry.
Kamil Salayi, Kirkuk mayor, told Rudaw that the situation is now calm in Taza Khurmatu. He said it was the Iraqi forces who first initiated the clashes there.
Peshmerga claim that they destroyed four Iraqi vehicles. A Kurdish official said that they have pushed back Iraqi forces twice since the fighting began the two sides in Taza Khurmatu.