Kurds accuse Baghdad of troop build-up on region border

Kurdish officials in northern Iraq express concern over ‘dangerous deployment’ of Iraqi troops and allied militia.

Iraqi soldiers ride in military vehicles in Zumar
Iraqi soldiers ride in military vehicles in Zumar, Nineveh province, Iraq October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal [Reuters]

The Kurdish leadership in northern Iraq has accused the federal government in Baghdad of continuing to mobilise security forces towards the borders of the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) said on Monday that it was concerned over the “dangerous deployment” of Iraqi troops and allied militia in the region. 

“In the last 48 hours, Iraq has continued to deploy tanks and artillery, as well as American equipment, including Humvees and Armoured Personnel Carriers,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“Iraq has shown zero signs of de-escalating their military aggression against the people of Kurdistan Region,” said KRSC, urging Baghdad to stop the military buildup.

“We call on the Iraqi government to immediately cease its military aggression and withdraw from all territories.” 

There was no immediate comment from Baghdad.

Kirkuk advance

The Iraqi army, backed by Shia paramilitaries, on Saturday said it was in full control of all of oil-rich Kirkuk province following the capture of Altun Kupri town after intense fighting against Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

Baghdad’s forces had previously captured Kirkuk city, as part of a major military operation in the wake of a controversial September 25 referendum on Kurdish secession that Baghdad had declared illegal.

As the Iraqi army advanced, tens of thousands of people, including civilians and Peshmerga fighters, fled the disputed multi-ethnic city, home to about a million Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces seized Kirkuk, Iraq’s second oil hub, in mid-2014 when Iraqi troops withdrew from the advancing ISIL (also known as ISIS) group.

‘Shock and disarray’

Separately, parliamentary and presidential elections set for November 1 were delayed on Monday after political parties reportedly failed to present candidates. 

Yerevan Saeed, a Kurdish affairs analyst and researcher at the Middle East Research Institute, told Al Jazeera that the underlying causes for the delay appeared to be deeper.

“The Kurdish leadership is in a state of shock and disarray after they lost almost 45 percent of the territory that they had controlled since 2014,” he told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC.

“It is all about the repercussions and unintended consequences of the referendum, and the regional and international pressure on the leadership of the Kurdish Regional Government,” he added.

“The referendum was supposed to consolidate the legitimacy and also the position of the ruling Kurdish party, but obviously that backfired.”

Source: Al Jazeera